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This interview is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

interviews Roger Langley
The Long Question of Poetry: A Quiz for R.F. Langley
Matías Serra Bradford
Most diaries get written by the end of the day. On the contrary, the zealous journals of the poet R.F. Langley were composed, as it were, in 'real time'. In August 1985, while wandering through a forest, Langley thought and wrote, there and then: 'I do not want anyone else to come in here and find me'. Alas, Roger Langley has now gone into hiding for a longer spell. 'We are haunted by a picture of ourselves in flight', remarked Adam Phillips - one of Langley's favoured contemporary essayists - in his book on Houdini. ('The clown's own / knuckles are the bones he's thrown', Langley had typed, not with Houdini in mind but perfectly catching the trickery of an escape artist.) Reading Phillips on the impossibility of being able to hide and on the wish to find a magical solution to this, a reader may be able to conceive of death, for a second, as a sleight of hand. The person's gone and in his place, on a table, linger a few books with his signature on them. Definite withdrawal redoubles the riddle. Phillips himself once pointed to Hamlet as embodying 'the most sacred idea of all: that a person is a mystery, and the mystery has no heart, no centre to it'. And that it's 'as though the artist had a secret method called “who he or she happened to be” that was too enigmatic to be known'. All of which sounds like a wise variation on something Phillips ...


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