Can you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Yes. The teacher at my Primary School said it was very good but short and could I think of a second verse? The second verse was even worse than the first. So much for editors. I didn't write any more poetry for a while so I don't think of it as particularly significant. I started writing poetry with a purpose when I was in my teens.
And how old you were when you wrote it?
I wrote it in Lincolnshire. We left Lincolnshire when I was seven.
And what it was about?
It is not the role of the artist to interpret his or her own work. However, I can still remember the poem so I'll let the reader decide: "I was walking in the park / when I felt a drop of rain / so I turned around / and went back home again."
Name a favourite poem or two . . .
"Briggflatts" by Basil Bunting. Its use of English is as vivid as a walk in the Pennines on a wet day. It always does a lot more for me than Eliot and – talking of the Pennines – Hughes and Plath. Bunting doesn't get read anything like enough. Then there's "Walking Around" by Pablo Neruda (trans. Robert Bly): ". . . there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,/ there are mirrors / that ought to have wept from shame and terror . . ."
. . . and a few of your favourite poets.
I don't really have any. My favourite poet is the one I feel like reading at any given moment. Not so long ago that was Barry MacSweeney and, even more recently, Wordsworth.
Do you talk about poetry with your friends or is it a secret part of your life?
Dunno, really. I think of poems as coming from somewhere else, so although I write poems now and again I don't talk about poetry much unless someone pokes me with a pointed stick.
Do you write poetry for yourself, or for others, or for both?
Is it important to you if your poems get published or not?
I'd like to think they would be read or heard.
Do you think poetry is important in the global scale of things or just a pleasant, indulgent hobby like needlework or trainspotting?
I think poetry is a function of being human.
What does poetry really mean to you?
I'm not sure. I suppose that to describe a statement as a poem is to say it is a particular kind of statement, one which aims to make something explicit without explicitly stating it. That something, to be worth making into a poem, would be something difficult to convey in prose of a similar length.
Is poetry better than sex?
Of course. Mara is a bad poet.