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This interview is taken from PN Review 136, Volume 27 Number 2, November - December 2000.

in conversation with Michael Hamburger Michael Schmidt

On the occasion of the publication of Michael Hamburger's new book of poems, Intersections (Anvil Press, £9.95), the poet agreed to respond to a series of questions for PN Review aimed at surveying his work as a poet, translator and critic and celebrating the rich harvest of poetry of the last six years.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT: When Ownerless Earth: New and Selected Poems appeared in 1973, I seem to remember your referring to Theodore Roethke and his insistence that every new book should include what preceded it, making each volume in effect a new and selected poems, because the more recent work made sense only in terms of the earlier. This is what Umberto Saba wanted, too. In an ideal world, would you have wanted Intersections to come at the end of a relevant selection, and if so which earlier poems would have been most relevant to it?

MICHAEL HAMBURGER: Though I don't recall what I wrote or said about Roethke's preference in 1975, I can still see the point of it, in relation to Roethke or Saba. But of course an author's concern with the wholeness of his or her work doesn't necessarily accord with the requirements of readers - quite especially now that every week at least one new poet is hailed and 'hyped' as the greatest of the living, and the most that can happen for an older or dead poet is that, almost fortuitously, a poem or two will be ...


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