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This interview is taken from PN Review 202, Volume 38 Number 2, November - December 2011.

in conversation with Maurice Rutherford Carol Rumens

CAROL RUMENS: Who were the first poets whose work was important to you?

MAURICE RUTHERFORD: Among the anthologies I found in the public library was The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century English Verse, chosen by Philip Larkin. Some of the contents were such a revelation to me that I wanted to own a copy. This was the first poetry book I ever bought - the first of many. Perhaps it was to be expected that I should start by reading the poets of around my generation. But, although I share Larkin's year of birth, his poems were not the first to capture my attention, but those dealing with World War II experiences, poems by Charles Causley, Keith Douglas, Vernon Scannell and especially Henry Reed, whose 'Naming of Parts' showed me a picture from my own life as an eighteen-year-old virgin recruit being introduced to the Lee Enfield rifle whilst daydreaming of other things (not least of all, sex). I was made suddenly aware that deeply moving poems could be written about life as I knew or had known it.

Before discovering earlier poets such as Edward Thomas and Thomas Hardy I found the work of another Thomas, a Welshman writing in English, and it was with him that I first experienced 'hearing' the music of poetry lifting from the printed page, the music of language so beautiful that I couldn't not thrill to it; a beauty to bring tears. It is to R.S. Thomas I ...


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