How important is poetry?
Poetry isn't really important, it's necessary. There have been lots of tribes in the history of the world who've had no education, no schools, no television, no all sorts of things, but every tribe in the world has always had poetry. Sometimes it's poetry that's song and dance, sometimes it's poetry that's recited in a trance - it's all sorts of poetry. But you can't have a tribe without poetry. And if you have a country without poetry it's an impoverished country. It's like a country without music - unimaginable.
Where and when do you write?
I write in my house, at home usually - I have a small room in which I have an Applemac, and I work on that some of the time and then sometimes I go into a bigger room which I've got which I call my study, rather laughingly, where I do what I also laughingly call research - which means reading lots of books by other people, and lots of poetry, and newspapers, and sometimes doing a crossword, or just talking to the dog. But I write wherever I am: I carry little cards, little library file cards in my pocket and always about three pens, and wherever I am I scribble things down while they're hot, and I take them back and I then look at them and see, you know, I throw away some of the cards, I say oh that's rubbish . . . that's rubbish . . . that's rubbish . . . ooh that's a good one, needs some work, yeah, cut out the boring bits, and maybe I get enough cards and they form themselves into a poem sometimes.
How does a poem begin for you - with an idea, image or phrase?
It's usually, a poem begins by words in my head starting to do acrobatics or having fun or just repeating themselves. Yesterday what happened was I'd been watching a documentary about Bob Dylan the night before; and it was very exciting, and I went out with my head full of Dylan, and I was walking my dog on Hampstead Heath, and along a hillside and I started off with a sort of a line about walking on a hillside, "My trainers drenched in dew/One of my legs is longer than the other, but only by a sentimental metre or two/My head was kind of empty I was thinking of you" And it was sort of coming out a bit Bob Dylan-ish. "And it was something else" (that's the chorus) and that was sort of coming out as a song and I was writing it in my head as I walked along to the beat, which I was walking and it was about the fact that I was walking -So it can be that, or it can be I'm on a bus: I travel a lot on the bus because I have a free bus ticket these days, and I listen to people on buses and they talk to each other and sometimes they talk on their beautiful little mobile phones and they talk very loudly and I write down what they say. I'm a spy on the bus, and I write down things and sometimes I turn them into poems. So a poem can begin like that or it can begin by reading a newspaper and getting excited or moved or angry or sad or happy by something I read and I start writing about it. Or it can be a phone call, it can be what my wife says to me at breakfast, or doesn't say at breakfast, or the way that my dog looks at me, it can be anything starts a poem, anything at all. I don't go looking for them, I've got enough to write about for the rest of my life, and for the rest of several more lives