Why do you write?
To make sense of the relations between my perceptions and my feelings.
Are you a vivid dreamer?
Yes, in general I am, but I have three kinds of dream: those that are dully bureaucratic at root; those that revisit the emblematic landscapes or cities of earlier dreams; and wild, coloured dreams with a green welcoming ocean or dark monsters.
Where are you happiest?
Where beaches meet the steep bush along the Great Ocean Road; but I do like some European cities.
What is your favourite word?
Keats’s admiring adjective ‘leopardess’ takes some beating, ditto ‘tatterdemalion’, but I also collect adjectival darts like ‘smug’ and ‘furtive’. The most detestable modern word is surely that vacuous term ‘logistics’.
Which human quality do you most admire?
Good-humoured acceptance of this faulty universe would rank very high indeed: also the capacity to love another person without self-congratulation.
What is your favourite book?
It would have to be Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, if I may still give it the title that it had in C.K. Scott-Moncrieff’s translation. There is also the Bible, of course.
And your favourite literary hero and heroine?
Kipling’s Kim is the former: he is so resilient and jaunty; besides, he is in India, which is a big plus for me. Among adult heroes, it would have to be Gunnar; but leisurely Tom Collins is my favourite dag. Among heroines, I do admire the plucky, overweight Louie in The Man Who Loved Children, even though she’s not sexy like Madame de Vionnet or Gina Sanseverina.
What, if anything, impedes your writing?
How old were you when your first book appeared?
Twenty-five, with The Music of Division.
Of which of your books are you fondest?
Proximity breeds familiarity, hence Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw, but I retain a soft spot for The Amorous Cannibal.
In a phrase, how would you characterise your work?
Linguistically playful and metaphysically tragic.
Who is your favourite author?
The incomparable Shakespeare and then, latterly, Auden.
How do you regard publishers?
Favourably; and our publishers need to be defended from so-called free trade conditions.
What do you think of the state of criticism?
Good in parts, like the curate’s egg.
If you had your time over again, would you choose to be a writer?
Oh yes; failing that, a sculptor in metal and wood.
What do you think of writers’ festivals?
It is very nice to be asked, especially to Mildura.
Do you feel artists are valued in our society?
Poets during wartime, perhaps. Some painters have pubs named after them now.
What are you working on now?
More poems, maybe a libretto, drawings, and a chapbook on Puck.