Academic journal article John Clare Society Journal

Interview with David Morley: The Gypsy and the Poet

Academic journal article John Clare Society Journal

Interview with David Morley: The Gypsy and the Poet

Article excerpt

The poems threaded through the interview below are taken from David Motley's The Gypsy and the Poet (Carcanet, 2013).

Simon Kövesi: Could you tell me about the context for your conceiving of this new collection of poems, The Gypsy and the Poet?

David Morley: I'd finished a trilogy of books for Carcanet, and I had no idea what I was going to do after that trilogy. I'd worked on three books over ten years. And I started writing sporadic notes, the usual sporadic way, and was doing fine. And then two of my PhD students were dying to go to this get-together of environmentalists and writers and film-makers, that was taking place at Helpston. Well, I had already been invited. They knew that! I had been invited by New Networks for Nature, a broad alliance of creators whose work draws strongly on the natural environment, to perform at their annual gathering. The performance took place in Helpston Church. Afterwards, I went to see John Clare, sat down by his grave and had a little chat with him. Then I went to Clare Cottage with my students,· I bounced a few ideas around with them in the car. At home, I reread Jonathan Bate's biography, and found myself thinking about the presence of Gypsies in Clare's life - particularly of Wisdom Smith. I am partly Romani. I have written poems using various Romani dialects. I was drawn to Clare through his use of his own voice and dialect in poems and notebooks, but also through the company he chose to keep: his friend, the Gypsy Wisdom Smith leapt out at me from the notebooks. I went to my university library and got out every John Clare book, and took in as much as possible. The notebooks and the poems in their original publication were my epicentres of obsession. I wasn't necessarily trying to do anything with this. I had found an appetite for something and following it through in tha usual, voracious way that you do when you're not writing, in order to write. Then, one morning, I went into my writing shed and found Wisdom Smith sitting in the chair, waiting for me, and I seemed to step into him, or he stepped into me, and there were various things about him which were very impressive. He could write a lot better than I could; he could write sonnets, which I've never really tried before; and he could see that the sonnet wasn't just a form - there were forms within that form, that I'd never really thought about - for instance poems that were made from dynamic dialogue; poems that take longer, rangier lines; while some take the form of natural shapes. Although he could step out of me, and I could step out of him, quite easily, he was a very demanding task-master. I think it was a necessary species of schizophrenia, for me to be forced to take a big step in development, and to write something that had unity and strength and that was dramatic and strong and more real than some of the stuff I had done before. It was an escape from the literary. Wisdom Smith, knowing Clare as he did, and becoming me, as he did, at that point, allowed two aspects of my own developing character, two ways of becoming and being. I allowed myself to be taken over, and to trust in that transformation completely.

SK: Was it a sort of Keatsian negative capability? No identity for the poet and another voice completely usurps you?

DM: Completely, yes. I think understanding about negative capability is probably a good thing because otherwise it might seem like a form of madness. I knew that I was being annihilated every time I sat down to write but had no problem with it whatsoever because actually the results were quite clearly beyond me, in the 'me' sense of the ego - completely beyond my self. The other thing that I had ticking around in my mind is in Rilke's 'Letters to a Young Poet'. He has that terrific and terrifying notion about waking in the night and asking if you really want to write, and if the answer comes back 'in assent', he says you should turn closer to nature and try as if nobody had ever tried before 'to say what you see and feel and love and lose'. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.