Five Minute Interview with David Constantine


We are less than two weeks away from the start of the 2018 Kendal Poetry Festival and things are hotting up here at festival headquarters.  Pauline is travelling around Kendal so fast she has turned into a blur, distributing brochures,  putting up posters, checking in with the venues and doing a hundred and one last minute jobs.  I (Kim) am busy posting these blogs, liasing with the Festival Poets and rounding up the Young Poets  – always a job to keep me on my toes.

Our fourth Five Minute Interview of 2018 is with the David Constantine, who will be reading on the 9th September at 11am, along with Claudine Toutoungi.  You can get a ticket for David’s reading here.

David Constantine was born 1944 in Salford, Lancashire, and spent 30 years as a university teacher of German language and literature. He has published a dozen volumes of poetry.  His most recent collection is Elder (Bloodaxe, 2014); two novels, Davies (1985) and The Life-Writer (2015), and five collections of short stories. He is an editor and translator of Hölderlin, Goethe, Kleist and Brecht.

For his stories he won the BBC National and the Frank O’ Connor International Awards (2010, 2013). The film ‘45 Years’ was based on his story ‘In Another Country’. With Helen Constantine he edited Modern Poetry in Translation, 2003-12. His new and greatly enlarged Selected Poetry of Hölderlin will be published by Bloodaxe later this year.

You can order David’s books from the Bloodaxe website

Thanks to Hannah Hodgson, as always for this excellent interview and to David for taking part.

HH: On days that you know you have a lot of work to get done, so you have any treats / bribes to make yourself get your work done?

DC: I tell myself, You can plant the beans (or whatever else needs doing in the garden) when you have written what you have to write

HH: If you could narrow it down to one, what would you class as your favourite event that you have read at?

DC:  Over many years I have enjoyed many events.

HH: Can you recommend a book of poetry that you feel should have more ‘hype’ surrounding it?

DC: Sorry, no. I don’t think poets are helped by hype.

HH: If you could pick any poets as members of your poetry family, who would you choose?

DC: They are all on my shelves. But I’d be glad of a conversation with, say, Emily Dickinson or John Clare.

HH: Do you have any tips for any new or young writers?

DC: Read a lot of poetry, ancient and modern, from home and abroad. Translate a foreign poet if you can. Don’t ever write just to get published. Write when you must. Avoid the anecdotal (recounting your experiences. Robert Lowell: ‘A poem is an event, not the record of an event.’

HH: Thanks David! If you’d like to read some of David’s poetry, you can order Elder over at the Bloodaxe website


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