PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Colm Toibin on Thom Gunn's Letters Allice Hiller and Sasha Dugdale in conversation David Herman on the life of Edward W. Said Jena Schmitt o'sn Hope Mirrlees Brian Morton: Now the Trees
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This interview is taken from PN Review 40, Volume 11 Number 2, November - December 1984.

in conversation with James Fenton Grevel Lindop
References in the text are to James Fenton's The Memory of War and Children in Exile (Penguin, 1983).

Grevel Lindop - Your work has often been linked with your admiration for Auden. How important has his influence been?

James Fenton - I think the question of influence is misunderstood. People say and think - and probably rightly - that one is less a poet the more one owes to a previous writer. People haven't always felt that. And I didn't feel that at the time I started writing. I was perfectly happy to imitate Auden at times and to follow what seemed to me a possible programme he had set for poets, a possible area of interest they might include in their poetry, a possible way of writing a line- those long lines which, when I started writing, very few people used, so they always identified this as a late Audenesque line. It seemed to me that Auden had invented a certain kind of discursive poem which could range over a huge number of topics or areas of intellectual interest. Nobody had taken up this possibility he had offered. So it's not a question of being unable to get Auden out of your blood-stream. Not like the effect of reading Dylan Thomas! It is a question of going to school with a master and beginning that way. I think that is quite a reasonable, genuine approach. Of course critics are able to say: ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image