Amy Clampitt and the “sonorities of English”

Although involved in literary endeavors in some form throughout her life, Amy Clampitt did not publish her first poem until she was in her forties, and her first full-length book of poetry until she was 63.  She wrote prolifically after that, releasing four more volumes in the ten years before her death in 1994.  In February of 1983, she came to speak in Pearl London's seminar. Their discussion is transcribed in my book, Poetry in Person (Knopf, 2010).

She was a poet, as her New York Times obituary wrote, of "dense, ornate and allusive" lines. In this audio clip, Clampitt discusses these and other characteristics of her diction. One of the most fascinating things about this exchange is the dynamic of the back and forth between Clampitt and London; as an interviewer, London just as often disagrees with her guests as agrees with them.  Here, buffering her repartees with succinct bits from Wallace Stevens and Ezra Pound, London asks Clampitt about the musicality of her poetry, and about Clampitt's view that there is today a "wholesale deafness to the sonorities of English."

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