Last time I spoke to Ray Liversidge, there was talk of Spenserian stanzas, so let’s pick up that thread and keep the conversation rolling.
ALS: Can I ask what drew you to the nine-line Spenserian stanza as form?
RL: Without sounding wanky I wanted to set myself a challenge. I have written poems using traditional forms before but have not attempted anything on this scale. As I see these portraits as ‘biography as a thumbnail sketch’ (Peter Porter) I thought it might be interesting to discipline (punish?) myself by using the same poetic form for all 30 poems. The traditional Spenserian stanza uses a specific rhyme scheme and has the first eight lines in iambic pentameter and the last as an alexandrine. That final line of six feet gives the poem a stately and meditative movement which I thought ideal for writing about the lives – and ultimate deaths – of the poets. However, my poems are not Spenserian stanzas in the purest sense as there is a mixture of rhymes and half-rhymes, and I employ a syllabic count for the lines rather than the traditional five and six beat metre.
ALS: I am also interested in whether any of the poets you have written about have become influences since discovering more about their lives and work?
RL: Several of the poets (Dylan Thomas, Rimbaud, Plath and Crane for example) were huge influences early on in my writing, but one learns – and indeed needs – to move on from these giants of the literary world. As I said in an earlier answer, it was a joy to discover and read poets who I hadn’t read before or for a long time but I can’t say they have had an affect on any poetry I wrote during the time I was writing the portrait poems or the ones I’ve written since.