An interview with Anthony Lawrence

by Australian Book Review
May 2022, no. 442

An interview with Anthony Lawrence

by Australian Book Review
May 2022, no. 442

Which poets have influenced you most?

The list is long, and takes the scenic route, from Homer to Hill, on to Plath
and Sexton, Murray, Adamson, and many I’ve forgotten. An overgrown path
with signposts lit or down, pressing on by star or map light, word of mouth
or accidental find. Influence is confluence, where shock of emotion
meets quiet thought. I follow leads, read every day, avoiding emoticons.

Are poems chiefly inspired or crafted?

Inspiration and craft can often be seen holding hands as they leave or enter
a wild space just out of reach of the intellect. Forest. Atoll. Some encounter
with a muse wearing a Royal spoonbill mask or a digger rolling a smoke
beside a grave. There’s little use resisting the poetic impulse when it breaks
from cover. You need to sign on. Go under. The subconscious is the better
vehicle every time. It’s self-hypnosis. Surrender to the ineffable. Craft can still
be applied while under the meniscus of awareness. Writing poetry is a spell.

What prompts a new poem?

A word. A gesture. A line by Karen Volkman that I might not understand,
yet which lights me up, regardless. See the previous question. The lie of the land.
The truth of navigation. A place where the physical and emotional are combined.

What circumstances are ideal for writing poetry?

I write poetry regardless of the variousness of life’s demands. * ‘In Dreams Begin
Responsibilities.’ ** ‘The invisible dimension.’

Roughly how many drafts do you produce before ‘finishing’ a poem?

Anywhere from ten to eighty versions can account for the false starts
and blackened sheets of paper that attest to *** ‘...My Craft or Sullen Art.’

Which poet would you most like to talk to – and why?

Robert Frost. To ask him about how the regional and international
were aligned, in verse blank as it was formal.

Do you have a favourite Australian poetry collection?

‘Streets of the Long Voyage,’ by Michael Dransfield. It still resonates
**** ‘the way the morning sun floods down O’Connell Street’.

What do poets need most: solitude or a coterie?

Some need silence, blacked-out windows, a table, chair, and lamp. Others
a crowded bar, a treehouse, a living room workshop with their brothers.

What have you learned from reviews of your work?

From careful readings of the poems by poets, academics, or any writer I respect,
many things. By assassins of character, eternal neglect.

If Plato allowed you to keep one poem or poetry collection in his Republic, what would it be?

‘In the Shadows of Our Heads,’ from the forthcoming manuscript ‘Elsewhere’.

What is your favourite line of poetry (or couplet)?  

                                          ****** ‘the poems
heavy as poached game hanging from my hands.’

Is poetry appreciated by the reading public?

Yes, but the readership is small. It’s mainly poets who buy books of poetry.
******* ‘If we sold five hundred copies, we were well on the way to eternity.’

* Delmore Schwartz   ** Hart Crane *** Dylan Thomas  **** Michael Dransfield (from the poem ‘Lines For a Friend, 1948-1965’)  
****** Sharon Olds (from the poem ‘The Station’) ******* Leonard Cohen

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