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The Poetry School - Poetry in Aldeburgh - Ben Rogers Interviews Dan Burt

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20th October 2016

Ben Rogers: Having worked as a lawyer, to what extent do you wrestle with issues of truth, accuracy and authenticity when writing poetry?

Dan Burt: I labour almost obsessively over all three with an eye to creating in the reader the core of the experience I’m writing about. For example, when you first visit Yeats’ grave in Drumcliffe churchyard, it looks and “feels” exactly as he described it at the end of Under Ben Bulben. If you know the poem, you have a sense of having seen it before, which was my reaction when I saw it for the first time in 50 years ago. It’s this I strive for in whatever I write. (See Auerbach in a 2013 Telegraph interview on how and why he paints.)

I doubt it was long years lawyering that made me concerned with conveying the truth of what I write. However, as the aim of legal brief writing is to persuade using the facts of a matter, law practice helped me acquire what little skill I may have in marshalling facts to engender in the reader the experience I’m writing about.

Law practice did impel me to accuracy, since it’s one of the essential elements in all kinds of legal writing. I dislike pretence in anything; if my writing is inauthentic, it has no rationale for being, and one more reason to loathe myself.

Lastly, working with teams of people to write legal briefs made it much easier to profit from the critiques editors give me.

Read full interview with Dan Burt.