FORWARD PRIZES: Please tell us about the genesis of your shortlisted poem. Is it part of a collection or sequence? Where can a reader find more by you?
DENISE RILEY: The title of my poem ‘1948’ marks a particular patch of British postwar social history; the treatment of ‘illegitimate’ children by the various authorities concerned. 1948 was the year of my birth; this poem’s also a directly personal account – which I feel jumpy about. But despite my strong misgivings, I’ve tried to brace myself against the exposure of publishing it – because in the current climate of social amnesia, it may shed some light on half-forgotten institutional systems of ‘care’ policies and their repercussions, and so it could resonate with the many older people who were similarly and silently affected.
Quite a few of my poems can be found online. This one will appear next year in my new collection, LUREX, from Picador.
FP: Which poets do you admire most and what do you value in their work?
DR: William Blake. Otherwise, restricting myself to those who died in the course of the last century: Guillaume Apollinaire, Ted Berrigan, A.E. Housman, Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, W.H. Auden, W.S. Graham, James Schuyler, Lynette Roberts, Frank O’Hara, Sorley MacLean, Marianne Moore, Lorine Niedecker, Wallace Stevens, César Vallejo, W.B. Yeats – very varied embodiments of gracefulness, tart compression, gravity with lightness.
FP: What is next for you as a poet?
DR: I wouldn’t lay claim to that phrase ‘as a poet’. I never know if I’ll ever manage another poem; I suspect this is a common uncertainty – if so, I wonder about exactly why that is.