More than a mirror held by both sides ctd

Judge Michael Symmons Roberts interviewed by Mike Sims about the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2011


So do you think there may be unpredictable, unexpected things ahead as a judge?
I'm particularly interested to see poetry connect in a distinctive rather than a gimmicky way with the new artforms that are emerging out of the digital world. I was talking to someone the other day about the way in which gaming is changing, the growing acceptance that it is concerned not only with graphics but also with the story. Screenwriters are now starting to write the multiple story strands of games. Well, is there a place for poets to step into that world and, if so, what could it be and how would it work? How could it be more interesting than simply some virtual character speaking in couplets? I’d love to see something that takes the new emerging digital art forms seriously.

But aren't computer games deterministic in a way that poetry typically isn't?
I think the new games aren’t, and have more complex story structures. And of course poetry is a balance of restriction, formal restriction through which new ways of thinking and imagining emerge. No art form functions with complete open-endedness. So I don’t see there shouldn’t be the potential for collaboration between a poet and a games designer. I’m not talking about an Emily Dickinson avatar brandishing an AK-47. Though that would be tempting…

And the field remains a lively one?
Yes. Not least I’d mention a project we run each year at Manchester Metropolitan University, where I teach alongside Carol Ann Duffy, Jean Sprackland and Adam O’Riordan. Though my work with James MacMillan, I know Adam Gorb, Head of School of Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music, and we’ve set up an annual collaborative project that brings together his postgraduate composers and our MA poets. We’ve done this for three years and some of our first collaborative partnerships are still together. It came out of a conversation with Adam, who was describing how all his composers were setting Auden, to which I replied: “That’s great but he is dead! I can bring you some living poets”. We have this sort of ‘speed dating’ session in January, where I take all our poets over the road to the RNCM, at which they sheepishly read a poem each and the composers perform a piece of music, and then they mill around. Each year about ten partnerships form and the pieces are performed at a concert in May, and we give one of them the Rosamond Prize, named after the street that separates the two institutions. It’s a little, local way of encouraging more of these partnerships.


For full details of the 2011 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry click here.