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This interview is taken from PN Review 233, Volume 43 Number 3, January - February 2017.

in conversation Alan Hollinghurst
Alan Hollinghursrt: I was noticing some numerical coincidences. The first poems in your first book (Fairground Music, 1961) you wrote when you were seventeen in 1954, the year I was born. Then I met you when I was seventeen and became your pupil the following year and began to write under your encouragement. I think it was the time of Cannibals and Missionaries (1972). So your work has been a constant part of my adult life…

John Fuller: Golly, you are making me scour my memory.

A.H.  I’m going to do a lot of that. You are now publishing, to mark your eightieth birthday, a poem which is a sort of homage to Auden’s Letter to Lord Byron which he published in 1937 when you were born and he was thirty. So you’re publishing yours at an age exactly fifty years greater than that at which Auden published his.

J.F.  Yes, The Bone Flowers. It’s a homage to Byron himself, really, in ottava rima. Auden only managed
rhyme royal, one line less. But Alan, I’d no idea you were such a brazen numerologist…

A.H.  I don’t know what significance there is in these numbers but it made me want to ask you things I have never asked you before. What is your first memory of Auden or your first experience of him?

J.F.  I remember reading The Orators at school and being so struck by its utter incomprehensibility and busyness that I wanted to imitate it at a time when I’d perhaps only been writing pseudo-Georgian poems.

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