Frequently Asked Questions


If you’re upon a School Assignment
    You won’t be wanting this refinement.
Cheer up! There’s stuff about each book
    Elsewhere, if you would care to look.

Do you put people you know into your books?

Where was she from, the woman in the tower?
    I pushed a doorway on the winding stair,
Stole hesitantly in, and she was there,
    An absolute presence, filling the room with power,
Her life a moment in my sleeping brain —
    I know her, though we never meet again.

By contrast, those I see from day to day
    I know by fits and snatches at the most,
A fluid jigsaw, many pieces lost.
    What their real self is, who am I to say?
Though she’s the one with whom I share my life,
    Can I be truly said to know my wife?

Have you any advice for a young writer?

Perfection? There is no such stuff.
But good enough is not enough.

What is your favourite book?

What is your favourite kind of food? say I.
If you have one — just one — you’re worth a sigh.

How did you become a writer?

It isn’t something I became —
    It is the only life I know.
    If you could somehow dam the flow
I’d be a writer just the same.

The condor in your local zoo,
    Caged, wing-clipped, fed — what is it for?
    It is a creature made to soar,
A dot on the enormous blue.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

A money spider hanging in mid air.
    Like a retinal fleck it dangles from the lamp
In the blank bathroom, neither here nor there.
    You reach to take the thread. Your fingers clamp

On nothing — nothing to feel or see — and yet
    The thread is there, because the spider heaves
Beneath your hand. You take and loose it at
    The sill, to live what life a spider lives.

A symbol surely, or a metaphor
    At least. The groping mind grasps nothing. Still,
Some line of thought must have existed, for
    This fleck now dangles here, this page its sill.