Antony Dunn: A poem and an interview

From The Hill of the Muses
Antony Dunn: Born in 1973, gifted with instinct and aura of joy…

From The Hill of the Muses
This is how I take you with me;
by saying to the empty seat
beside me, Look! how orange is
the sun above the sea. Now squint
to squeeze its circle from the glare.
And look! over your shoulder, how
the Parthenon squares up to it
and whelms itself with orange light,
before the sun, the heat and you
and I all go down together.
I take it you are lost for words
through pines and aloe vera to
the streetlights and the orange trees
as I watch your steps and wonder,
What d’you think? What d’you make of that?

Questions and Answers : an interview around poetry

Giving a symbolic use to nature - sun par agonised to a missing face- may lead to a romantic way of writing. Aren’t you afraid of being criticised about that?

A.D: Perhaps this poem is unusual for me. While I was writing my third collection, Bugs, I promised myself that none of the poems in it would be about me. Some of them are, of course – in indirect ways. This poem is one of the first half-dozen I’ve written since Bugs, and I’m allowing myself to write some more directly personal poems. It’s a romantic poem, sure. And no, criticism is something I stopped being afraid of after the first review of my first book made me burst into tears in a bookshop...

Orange is the dominating colour all over the poem. It prepares the reader for the heat and therefore for love, until it ends as a tree, like the fulfilment of love. In some way, the structure of the poem does not surprise. Is it your aim while writing? A poem does not have to attack the reader's expectations?
A.D: I’d like to think that my poems did surprise their readers. But I do like to write the occasional poem that’s apparently very simple and plain.

The streetlights and the orange trees: the first image refers to a night snapshot but the orange trees somehow refer to daylight. Is this contrast an effective means of expressing your next state of being puzzled as you wonder?
A.D: Not really. As I walked back into Athens from the Hill of the Muses, in the dark, I was struck by the orange of the streetlights and the oranges hanging in the trees. If the image makes the poem’s readers feel a sensation I didn’t intend, then that’s brilliant.

How inspiring the imagined relationship of writer-reader can be for you?
A.D: Very; particularly in a case like this, where the poem is written for a specific person, and then published for everyone. I do like to imagine my poems being read by real people.

When people ask about you, do you tell them you are also a poet?
A.D: I don’t, normally. I tell them I work in arts marketing, which I do. I’d really love to say that what I am is a “Poet” but it’s only part of what I am. I actually have to gather my courage before using the “P” word, for some reason. Maybe it’s a British thing. Many of us worry that ‘lofty’ words like “Poet” sound self-important or pretentious, which is sad. We should all be bolder.

Poetry refers to primitive joy for you or it is also enjoyment?
A.D: There’s something primitive, for me, about writing poems, because it feels like an instinct. I write because I can’t help it. And a lot of the time I don’t actually enjoy writing. It’s hard work, and frustrating, and it brings me face to face with my limitations all the time. Sometimes, though, it’s the most amazing pleasure. And I love reading other people’s poems. That’s enjoyment.
Do you adapt cinema images or paintings in your poems? Is your memory good?
A.D: Well, I can think of a couple of cinema images, yes. There’s a poem in my second book called Breaking News, which grew out of a shot in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the shot, there are three white suitcases, stacked beside a door. They made me think of a wedding cake, and I couldn’t get the image out of my head. That whole poem was a way of using the image so that I could stop thinking about it, I think. I have a good memory for some things: where I was when I heard a particular song; what something smelled like. I’m terrible with names, though.

Which poets do you read? What are your influences?
A.D: Too many to list, but my big influences when I was starting to write were Norman MacCaig (1910-1996), Ted Hughes (1930-1998), Matthew Sweeney (1952-), Adrian Henri (1972-), Andrew Motion (1952-). Not enough women there, are there?
Current favourites are Kathleen Jamie(1962-), Colette Bryce(1970-), Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), Matthew Hollis (1971-), Michael Symmons Roberts (1963-), Don Paterson(1963-), and Simon Armitage(1963-),. Far, far, far; they are too many to list.

From your experience how difficult is to be published in England? Do you pay for your first publication?
A.D: No. Never pay for publication; Ever. I don’t know if it’s harder to be published in the UK than it is anywhere else. It’s not easy. My first book was rejected six or seven times before Oxford University Press published it in 1998. But that’s because the early drafts were simply not good enough. Brilliant writing will find a publisher in the end. The sad news is that plenty of really bad writing finds a publisher, too.

How often do you write? Do most of your poems cover one page, so that verbal economy leads to a better result regarding feelings?
A.D: Not often enough. But, like all writers, I have periods of writing a lot, very quickly, and then months and months when nothing happens at all. That’s hard. And yes, most of poems are relatively short, probably because one of the things I really love about poetry is the way it can be so compact. I like a poem to be bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.

I recommend you visiting http://www.antonydunn.org/ so as to learn more about Antony Dunn 
first published here: http://lego4.blogspot.gr/2008/11/antony-dunn-poem-and-interview.html

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