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

in conversation with Michael Symmons Roberts Thomas Day
Michael Symmons Roberts was born in Preston, Lancashire, in 1963. He has published five collectionsof poetry: Soft Keys (1993), Raising Sparks (1999), Burning Babylon (2001), Corpus (2004), which won the Whitbread Award, and The Half-Healed (2008). He is also a novelist (Patrick's Alphabet (2006), Breath (2008)), a librettist, a maker of many film and radio documentaries, and a teacher of Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. The interview took place in Buxton on 20 July 2010; that evening Mozart's Zaide, the libretto adapted by Michael, was performed at the Buxton Opera House.

THOMAS DAY: During your childhood your family moved from the north to Berkshire, to within a mile of the Greenham Common airbase.

MICHAEL SYMMONS ROBERTS: Yes. At the time it was just a dormant airfield that hadn't been used since the Second World War. It was taken up by the US Air Force and within a couple of years of that became Britain's number one nuclear target, a much disputed site of peace protests, and so on. It became a very complicated, rather terrifying place to be, though it wasn't like that when we moved there.

Your experiences of growing up there are remembered in your third collection, Burning Babylon, though also, as you've said, perhaps only half-remembered or partly fantasised. That seems important to the way the book is written.

I wanted to be true to the experience of being an adolescent there, rather than true ...


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