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This interview is taken from PN Review 66, Volume 15 Number 4, March - April 1989.

Poets' Round Table 'A Common Language' Julian May

The debate about the 'new internationalism' of poetry in English sharpened with the appearance in 1988 of Derek Walcott's collection The Arkansas Testament and Les A. Murray's The Daylight Moon. It was argued that here was evidence that Britain, England in particular, is no longer the centre of poetry in English. But those unconvinced by 'the new inter-nationalism' found nothing in the books to alter their position.

For some time I had hoped to make a radio programme for BBC's Kaleidoscope to discuss the issue. The main difficulty was that the people with most to say on the subject, those who write very good poetry in English who are not British, rarely gather in this country. I resigned myself to collecting interviews from such poets when they came here, which I could then edit and assemble as a programme later. This was less than satisfactory as they could do little more than state their positions, when what was needed was a discussion in which they might respond to one another's views. In May Les Murray told me that those writers whose opinions most interested me - himself, Joseph Brodsky, Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney - would all attend the Dublin Writers' Conference in Dun Laoghaire. It was appropriate that they gathered there rather than in England, yet Dublin was not so far away as to make the programme impossible to realize.

I particularly hoped these writers would take part not merely because of their eminence, ...


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