Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Through a Glass Darkly


After Harvard, you spent two years at the University of Cambridge. What are the differences between American and British poets, or the relationship between them?

I remember feeling how oddly unrelated British and American poets were in the '70s. At the "high" end, there's more interchange — we read Seamus Heaney; some people here read Geoffrey Hill. You read Robert Lowell, or even John Ashbery in certain quarters. But in the middle it sometimes feels that there’s almost no connection. I remember going to hear poets like Lee Harwood read, sort of British “New York School” poets, in London when I was a student. They were very much on the outer edge of experimentalism in Britain. As students, of course, we would read David Jones and people who had historical relevance, and Philip Larkin was still alive then, who was very great. I remember being totally overwhelmed reading "The Whitsun Weddings" on a train in England. But a lot of the "everyday" poets don’t really speak to each other. It’s almost as if they are reading each other through a glass darkly. I think that’s particularly true of the Britons reading American poets.

Jonathan Galassi, President of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and one-time poetry editor of the Paris Review, interviewed in The Economist.

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