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This interview is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

In Conversation with E.J. Scovell Jem Poster

JP: Rereading your Collected Poems,* I'm struck by the extent to which children figure in your work. You're observing children rather than explicitly identifying with them, but observing them with a sympathy which makes me wonder how much of your own childhood is implicit in these poems.

EJS: I really think rather little. I have a bad memory for my early childhood, which was a happy one, I think, though I do remember painful feelings of guilt and homesickness. Those childhood poems in a separate section of the book are nearly all about the infancy of my own children, and as you say they arise more from observing than identifying; some perhaps are more about the relationship between mother and child than childhood itself.

Yet you do seem to me to be in some sense attuned to childhood perceptions, to their sharpness and intensity; to the heightened awareness which, legitimately I think, we associate with childhood.

I would like to think so; and as I say, I forget a great deal which must exist. But, thinking of Wordsworth and his 'clouds of glory', I can't remember being aware of them very young. What started me writing (or making up) verses was that I loved rhyme, I loved metre, and I think the clouds of glory came a bit later, perhaps at ten or twelve years old; I do remember being rather suddenly conscious about then that the world was wonderful.

Many ...


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