A Poetry Kit Interview
In 1992 Paul Amphlett first published
PEER POETRY a
magazine which due to a dedicated following is still going strong 12 years later.
Tell us something about yourself.
Old, 80 this year, but very fit and active in all
directions. Have difficulties in travelling due to a frail but delightful
and otherwise lively wife, Jane. I was an RAF navigator 39-45 era, studied
composition at London College of music - wrote several works, songs, piano
sonatina and several preludes and musical tales - a string quartet and
some orchestral work in the years
up to the '90's. In 1950 I married Jo Spanjer, a piano teacher and
concert pianist at the College. We went round the world as she
gave concerts and me looking after her. She formed the Schubert Duo
with Christopher Wood and sadly died young in 1974. She was taught by
Harold Craxton and Cyril Smith, by whom she was highly regarded. Moisevitch
had offered to take her into his home as a child and teach her himself,
but her family objected to the idea and also very sadly, I mean stupidly,
they wanted her to train as a typist! She won the Beethoven
Scholarship in 1938 but being half Jewish, could not go to Germany
to claim it.
I am now, 30 years later, married to Jane, who was in high fashion -
great fun. In the 60's and 70's I was in management in the office systems
business and was head-hunted to run Woburn Abbey for the Duke of Bedford.
Subsequently after success there, fell in love with a Stately Home '
Dodington', in Glos. 10 miles north of Bath and spent some years making it
the 5th most visited historic house in Britain. Joined Jane in her
business in Bath and have lived in or near Bath ever since. Have been
semi-retired since I was about 68, but went into publishing poetry - for
fun, (there are more expensive hobbies) in 1992, when I established
Peer Poetry Magazine and have now developed a web site.
firstname.lastname@example.org which gives some detail about my
How and when did you start writing?
I started writing at 13 - school poems and so on and got very
interested in poetry during the war, making friends with many stage people
and musicians. I self-published, mainly for friends, a collection of poems
in the '70's mainly mainstream and traditional forms, gaining a lot from
Frances Stillman's excellent book 'The Poet's Manual' which is always with
me (Thames and Hudson). I began to dabble with more modern poetry and after
a fallow period became deeply interested in Haiku and other forms in that
genre, which occupies most of my creative poetry life at the present
time. I shall be publishing several books of Haiku and Senryu in the near
future. Other collections by Peer Poetry include poets I have
published and some of their poems.
Was there anything that particularly influenced you?
Influences - specifically. Gerard Manley Hopkins especially, Edward
and Alan and Dylan Thomas - in particular Shakespeare of course, Jim Norton
- the Irish poet, the 1914 - 18 group, T. S. Eliot, and Issa, but I never
seem to have had time to have read as much as I would have wished and I am
influenced by some of the excellent - but generally unknown poets who have
written for Peer Poetry and very much by the quantities of Haiku and
Senryu that I read - its little use giving names other than Basho, unless
you are keen on the genre.
How do you write? Do you have any particular method for writing?
How do I write - a good question! I have never thought about this very
much except that a rhythm can start a poem off or a sudden insight into
something seen many times before. I always write something down, usually a
line that has come to me thinking about a particular subject, before I
polish and revise and revise and revise it and then go back months later
and do it all over again. I have to see a poem at least a dozen times at
intervals before I will let it rest this is as true of haiku as the as of other
I am appalled by the quantity and variety of poetry on the internet -
when can one ever get the time to absorb it all. One has to trust to luck
and 'cherry-pick' and sometimes as in your case, get recommended. There
are so many people I could recommend - but who's interested.
Why poetry? I find it easier to write than music, because the
technical aspects are all in the brain and don't depend on an interpreter
and an instrument to get in the way - but I suspect that I have even
better musical talent than poetical talent but the former is relatively
untrained - I wish I had trained to be a conductor when I left the RAF -
How often I find that a good poet writes music, or a painter writes poetry
etc, etc. So many artists are multi-talented.
Anything else to add?
poetry? It's partly because of the immense pleasure gained from in helping
others who are tentatively trying to write and to get their appreciative
remarks when they have succeeded - and the joy of discovering for yourself
a really talented poet that you can encourage and publish.
MY SISTER'S DYING
it seems so damned unlikely
that Joan - decided of opinion,
changeable in planning -
but assured, mature:
could simply disappear.
So rapidly she's altered -
her silver hair, that smoothly
glistening helm about her head
became a thin white cloud
floating above soft pink -
all in those few short weeks.
To think that bones can shrink -
her arms reduced to sticks,
yes, even her head ...
Her eyes change, now clear
now flat - impersonally glazed
no vision in the depths - they close,
dragging a few stumbled words
to silence ...
Minutes later, smooth conversation
resumes with caring words.
Each day she's more remote,
like thistledown wandering on the breeze
gently diminishing. She comforts me,
"there's so much love -
the family all around -
everyone so kind".
Behind each phrase the strain, the pain,
thin parchment skin dissolving
like crushed tissue-paper,
a little frown between her eyes,
flickering on and off.
Yet all her fears -
for family left to face the world
balanced by dignified acceptance.
The 'phone answered : "I'm still here".
A SHORT GINCO AT OXFORD
The spires of Oxford fade behind the
crouched 'Trout Inn' (scion of
a time-worn monastery) From smoky,
slim blondes supply choice Beef and
Trestles arrange both food and patrons
beside the hurried millstream.
at lunch, suffering
the attentions of a wasp
to my beef pie
Mayfly children dart amongst gaily
coloured tourist clobber.
a toddler cries:
through spread fingers
an aware glance
After the feast, further on, an
unlikely, dramatically broken bridge. The crumbling footpath hung,
two thirds drunkenly twisted, it's last
few slats vertical;
the final third, empty, on two
swinging in space
its wood walk twists in collapse:
bridge below the weir.
when you refused to look back
the emptiness beyond
Via tumbledown sheds, we hasten towards
the broad 'Isis' (Thames)
its rims battered by the wash of
at the brittle bank
ceaselet wavelets slap. attack
the river verge
Further on, both towpath and the border;
dry, brown and cropped by sheep.
a solo tree - beneath
resting sheep blanket
each inch of shade
We follow the river's curve, to a
concrete monument, blessed by the God of Transport -
the M40, streaming with traffic
the Isis seems still
under concrete spans
it slides silently
beneath the polished shield
where rings gleam, fish chase flies
Beyond, the bank is shaded by a grove of
trees; with wooden slats spanning a river inlet,
its waters inviting, cool and canopied.
on a limpid pool
a tiny water-boatman skims
over green veils
Emerging to the river bank; on a light
beige mud shallow - a foot or more underwater,
swim hundreds of tiny semi-transparent
a living, varying ribboned band
at my slightest move
as one, the throng of fry
turn in the stream
Returning to the conference, such
pleasure found in shaded peace,
evening invading the wide lawns and
woods, reflecting the care of centuries,
contrasted with decaying modern
trees stretch black brush strokes
across the banded lawns
by summer's ruby sun
MY FIRST HORSE
the veldt the farm, all corrugated roof,
dilapidated boarding, felt, the smell of tar.
twisted, tattered dry, clashed in the wind:
over all a half-blurred windmill whirled.
Foolish, clad in sweat-stained khaki drill,
sprog navigator; figure approached.
handed me, it seemed, a raw-boned hill.
yours!" in panic, I tied him to a tree
half a thrill.
explain ? I went in - such a hopeless task. "Tea?"
"Thanks, I said, (thinking, "I'd rather be in bed"}
Sandwiches offered, vacuum flask
Jack, you're on your way boy, fast"
to mount ? no mountaineer, I scrambled thankfully.
so roughly called - stood stolid - still for me -
not sense catastrophe !
my sweating neck
feet - it seemed, above the deck.
what was worse, I simply say -
me was a pond (well once it was)
as dry as hay.
was determined and the bottom deep
six feet down sheer side, I could have cried,
terror petrified. Still, I stayed on -
smothered grins, looked nonchalent - well, tried
uncertain, trotted, somewhat gained in pride.
swift rich leave I galloped free,
saw the farm, apart from sleep and food.
folk, so good, to give a lonely kid
days of life they understood - and after, so did he.