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This interview is taken from PN Review 79, Volume 17 Number 5, May - June 1991.

Charles Causley in conversation Clive Wilmer

Among our more prominent contemporary poets, Charles Causley stands almost alone as being what once upon a time poets always were: a maker of songs. I say songs because most of his poems, even if not actually meant to be sung, are in song form: they are ballads, chants, carols, riddles, shanties and nursery rhymes. He is a maker of songs in the grand Old English sense of the word: a craftsman who sees his job as the production of well-wrought artefacts. It follows from this that, when the poet speaks in propria persona, he does so not in order to draw attention to himself, but because there is no other way to address the subject in hand.

Or that always seemed to be the case. Latterly, Causley has given in to the sometimes painful process of exploring his own memories in quieter, more meditative forms. This is particularly so in his most recent books: Secret Destinations (1984) and A Field of Vision (1988).

Causley was born in Cornwall, where he still lives, in 1917. He began working in modest clerical jobs. What changed his life fundamentally was service in the Navy during the war, when in spite of the fears and discomforts - or perhaps because of them - he began writing poetry. For most of his life since then he has been a schoolteacher and a hugely productive man of letters. Not surprisingly, his Collected Poems (1975) is dominated by Cornwall, the sea, ...


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