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This interview is taken from PN Review 70, Volume 16 Number 2, November - December 1989.

An Interview with Thom Gunn Jim Powell

Do you have a sense of an English audience for your work, or a sense of two audiences, English and American?

Audience has always been a difficult question for me. It's the last thing I think about. People used to ask did I feel I was an English poet or an American poet and I would always be wishy-washy about it. Then a few years ago I came across a reference to myself as an Anglo-American poet and I thought, "Yes, that's what I am. I'm an Anglo-American poet." So that resolves that question! I don't think of the audiences as being that different. What people say about me, and it's probably true, is that in many of my poems I write about an American subject matter in an English way, by which they mean metrical and in rhyme - which may be an English way, though it's been used by some Americans. Of course free verse is not particularly English; very few English people have written decent free verse. One of the few is Lawrence.

Bunting, too.

Bunting, if you call that free verse. But it's such a tightly disciplined free verse, it keeps on moving into something very like metre.

Can you give us a history of your relation with the possibilities of form? I know you started out working in traditional metres.

I started out writing in metre because that was the way everybody around ...


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