Paul Magee: Interview data on how poems are made

"We do not know exactly what we are going to say until we have said it": Interview data on how poems are made

Paul Magee
This paper reflects on 28 in-depth interviews with celebrated Anglophone poets, including Rae Armantrout, Alison Croggon, Brook Emery, Kenneth Goldsmith, Medbh McGuckian, G.C. Waldrep, C.D. Wright and C.K. Williams. It focuses on responses to a question that split those poets into two opposed camps. The question concerned the function of spontaneity in poetic composition. The majority of poets interviewed said yes, often quite enthusiastically, to W. H. Auden's proposition in Secondary Worlds (1968) that when we 'genuinely speak' we are unaware of what we are about to say; and many also seemed happy to affirm his intimation that such unpremeditated utterance constitutes a key source of poetic value. Those who rejected these ideas were often passionate on the matter as well. The paper attempts to account for the causes of their split.

Paul Magee is author of From Here to Tierra del Fuego (University of Illinois Press: 2000), Cube Root of Book (John Leonard Press: 2006), shortlisted for the Innovation Award at the Adelaide Festival Awards 2008, and Stone Postcard (2014), listed in Australian Book Review as one of the books of the year for 2014. Paul is CI on the Australian Research Council funded Discovery Project Understanding Creative Excellence: A Case Study in Poetry, 2013-16. He teaches poetry and criticism at the University of Canberra, where he is Associate Professor.

Audio: Listen or download (right click and "save link as")  the audio of Paul's paper.

Listen or download the Q & A following Paul's paper.

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