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This interview is taken from PN Review 5, Volume 5 Number 1, October - December 1978.

Charles Tomlinson in Conversation Michael Schmidt
(The interviewer, Michael Schmidt, speaks first.)


YOU ONCE described your subject matter and its integrity in these terms: 'The hardness of crystals, the facets of cut glass; but also the shifting of light, the energizing weather which is the result of the combination of sun and frost . . .' These were 'components for the moral landscape' of your poems. Your recent poetry has, while preserving the hardness, changed somewhat the excessively aesthetic terms of this early formulation. What has provoked the change?


I haven't the least idea. All I can say is, whatever the change-and in over twenty years one would have hoped to change somewhat-the underlying continuity remains the important thing. I take your point about that formulation being couched in excessively aesthetic terms-it doesn't really even explain the book on which it appeared as a blurb, namely Seeing is Believing [1958] As an early formulation, however-and it actually grew out of The Necklace, completed between 1950 and 1953-for me it contained the right premises, the right base for a continuity. I wanted precision. This was at the time when Dylan Thomas represented one of the norms in poetry, and the weaker side of Thomas-his playing with words as if they were plasticine-seemed to me a threat to what I should call a civil language. I wanted resistance in language and subject matter-hence the rather self-conscious talk about facets and crystals-but I didn't want inertness, and 'energizing weather' which is the ...


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