‘There are poets I love but will hesitate to read if I am in the middle of writing a poem because I know their style is infectious; Ted Hughes for instance, or Seamus Heaney. There’s something Heaney-esque in every male poet of a certain age.’
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Poets have always looked inward. They have always been fascinated by transformation. Few, however, have considered how the act of writing poetry itself might change them. The poet John Greening looks within, and behind, and finds himself changed.
‘I was a Betjemaniac; I wore a Larkin smile. My writing desk was Auden-esque, til Yeats became my style.’
Should poetry be about something — other than itself? asks John Greening, considering some famous examples of works that have defied this question, as well as others which have dared to be topical, even at the risk of becoming irrelevant over time.