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Richard Watt Interview

July 2, 2011
Can you suggest collections or pamphlets that people should read?
John Glenday seems to be quite well known now, in a Competition Judge kind of way. His first pamphlet The Apple Ghost (1989) is one of my favourites and an absolute delight. From Occupied Territory set the bar just above Liz Lochhead, but both are still writing and the game’s wide open. Aonghas MacNeacail: My favourite Scottish writer of the moment, and his book Hymn to a Young Demon is brilliant.
Which poet got you into poetry?
I was a terrible, precocious infant and began to read poetry a long time before I could appreciate any of it. Not to belittle Georg Trakl and Dylan Thomas, but they were my kit. Very knotty, tortured stuff: what “tween” can resist? The first stuff I really took to heart was by George Herbert and the metaphysical group, but it doesn’t seem to have stuck. I didn’t think writing was something normal people engaged in, and then I encountered the “close reading” set at secondary school. Ted Hughes, Phil Larkin and (thank God) Norman MacCaig put a fire in me. I began to write at 16 but it was only on discovering Hart Crane that I started to mix a little high diction in with my poor, white boy roots.
What poets have you discovered in the last year?
Andy Jackson, Emily Berry, Teresa Cader and Johan de Wit are all new and exciting to me. You’ve got wit, guile and lunacy in there. Thomas McKean’s book A Conversation with Ruth Pitter recently turned me on to that grand dame. Tim Key’s become my favourite performance poet, although it’s really comedy.
Tell us about your pamphlet. How does your style come across in your work? 
It’s provisionally called The King’s Road after what should be the concluding sequence. I’m not so sure of the title now. I enjoy end sequences but they have to be powerful or the reader comes away unsatisfied. I’d like to think the reader will come away with a sense of wonder.
Beyond journalism and an interest in typography, I am a self-flagellating pedant and this must come across. Writing for an audience of one results in an obsession with failure. Allegories and puns fuel my poems. In my pamphlet you’ll find Arthurian myth, iconography, sea shanties and loneliness, Lovecraftian horror, science fiction, punk rock, stalking, video games, rampant libido, mental collapse, and a desire for fun above all.
Where do you write?
Mobile phone note-taking and dictation apps come in handy on a walk or drive, which is when I get most ideas. I type on a program called Dark Room once I get a few lines home, which reminds me of early home computers: green text on black and no distractions. There’s something very mysterious about green text. Stare into it too long and you’ll wake to a Garth Marenghi-style manuscript and an unsympathetic boiler.
Which poetry magazines do you read?
I’ve always kept up to date with Ambit in print (it’s easy), and Slate/Horizon Review and Spilt Milk online. The way things are going now, I trust a few people who are “in the scene” and tend to buy pamphlets via Facebook recommendation rather than subscribe to a magazine. That said, you have to be wary of agenda when you’re talking about poetry with poets. It’s like chatting on a civil aviation forum with Boeing247 and LockheedMartin1. I’ve never understood it.
If your poetry was a drink what drink would it be?
Three fingers of navy rum.
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