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A poet and an editor

10 December 2018

'I've always thought that writing poetry has very little to do with the intellect. It's not something one can explain and chat about very easily: certainly not about the making of it. It's very resistant to explanation. It comes from a place that is occult, in the sense of being hidden. It attends to some of our deepest anxieties and hopes in the same way that dreams do...

You can't live from poetry. It's always been my line that this job is entirely counterproductive. I can't go home at night having spent the day editing a novel and turn to my own work, because if I'm any good (as an editor) I've got somebody else's cadences in my ear. Cape has been wonderful in allowing me leniency. I go off for sabbaticals to somewhere solitary and silent, and wait to get back in the zone...

On balance (prizes) are a good thing. If you win one, they bring you new readers. But they've taken on an excessive prominence in our culture, and readers perhaps pay too much attention to them. External validation is important and, if that comes from your peers, it's even more welcome. But they're often uncomfortable, and gladiatorial. It's not a fair way of judging art.'

Robin Robertson, who has published six poetry collections, and whose latest book is The Long Take, which has just won the Goldsmiths Prize, and who is also an editor at Jonathan Cape, in the Observer.