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A Poetry Kit Interview

Paul Amphlett

In 1992 Paul Amphlett first published PEER POETRY a magazine which due to a dedicated following is still going strong 12 years later. 

Tell us something about yourself.

Old, 80 this year, but very fit and active in all directions. Have difficulties in travelling due to a frail but delightful and otherwise lively wife, Jane. I was an RAF navigator 39-45 era, studied composition at London College of music - wrote several works, songs, piano sonatina and several preludes and musical tales - a string quartet and some orchestral work in the years up to the '90's. In 1950 I married Jo Spanjer, a piano teacher and concert pianist at the College.  We went round the world as she gave concerts and me looking after her.  She formed the Schubert Duo with Christopher Wood and sadly died young in 1974. She was taught by Harold Craxton and Cyril Smith, by whom she was highly regarded. Moisevitch had offered to take her into his home as a child and teach her himself, but her family objected to the idea and also very sadly, I mean stupidly,  they wanted her to train as a typist!   She won the Beethoven Scholarship in 1938 but being half Jewish, could not go to Germany to claim it. 

 I am now, 30 years later, married to Jane, who was in high fashion - great fun. In the 60's and 70's I was in management in the office systems business and was head-hunted to run Woburn Abbey for the Duke of Bedford.   Subsequently after success there, fell in love with a Stately Home ' Dodington', in Glos. 10 miles north of Bath and spent some years making it the 5th most visited historic house in Britain.  Joined Jane in her business in Bath and have lived in or near Bath ever since.  Have been semi-retired since I was about 68, but went into publishing poetry - for fun, (there are more expensive hobbies) in 1992, when I established Peer Poetry Magazine and have now developed a web site.  which gives some detail about my poetry interests. 

How and when did you start writing?

I started writing at 13 - school poems and so on and got very interested in poetry during the war, making friends with many stage people and musicians. I self-published, mainly for friends, a collection of poems in the '70's mainly mainstream and traditional forms, gaining a lot from Frances Stillman's excellent book 'The Poet's Manual' which is always with me (Thames and Hudson). I began to dabble with more modern poetry and after a fallow period became deeply interested in Haiku and other forms in that genre, which occupies most of my creative poetry life at the present time. I shall be publishing several books of Haiku and Senryu in the near future.  Other collections by Peer Poetry include poets I have published and some of their poems.

Was there anything that particularly influenced you?

Influences - specifically. Gerard Manley Hopkins especially,  Edward and Alan and Dylan Thomas - in particular Shakespeare of course, Jim Norton - the Irish poet, the 1914 - 18 group, T. S. Eliot, and Issa, but I never seem to have had time to have read as much as I would have wished and I am influenced by some of the excellent - but generally unknown poets who have written for Peer Poetry and very much by the quantities of Haiku and Senryu that I read - its little use giving names other than Basho, unless you are keen on the genre.

How do you write? Do you have any particular method for writing?

How do I write - a good question!  I have never thought about this very much except that a rhythm can start a poem off or a sudden insight into something seen many times before. I always write something down, usually a line that has come to me thinking about a particular subject, before I polish and revise and revise and revise it and then go back months later and do it all over again. I have to see a poem at least a dozen times at intervals before I will let it rest this is as true of haiku as the as of other types.

 I am appalled by the quantity and variety of poetry on the internet - when can one ever get the time to absorb it all. One has to trust to luck and 'cherry-pick' and sometimes as in your case, get recommended. There are so many people I could recommend - but who's interested.

Why poetry?

Why poetry?  I find it easier to write than music, because the technical aspects are all in the brain and don't depend on an interpreter and an instrument to get in the way - but I suspect that I have even better musical talent than poetical talent but the former is relatively untrained - I wish I had trained to be a conductor when I left the RAF  - How often I find that a good poet writes music, or a painter writes poetry etc, etc. So many artists are multi-talented. 

Anything else to add? 

Again why poetry? It's partly because of the immense pleasure gained from in helping others who are tentatively trying to write and to get their appreciative remarks when they have succeeded - and the joy of discovering for yourself a really talented poet that you can encourage and publish. 

Links -  Paul Amphlett   W/W  







Knowing her,

it seems so damned unlikely

that Joan - decided of opinion,

changeable in planning -

but assured, mature:

could simply disappear.


So rapidly she's altered -

her silver hair, that smoothly

glistening helm about her head

became a thin white cloud

floating above soft pink -

all in those few short weeks.

To think that bones can shrink -

her arms reduced to sticks,

yes, even her head ...


Her eyes change, now clear

now flat - impersonally glazed

no vision in the depths - they close,

dragging a few stumbled words

to silence ...

Minutes later, smooth conversation

resumes with caring words.


Each day she's more remote,

like thistledown wandering on the breeze -

gently diminishing. She comforts me,

"there's so much love -

the family all around -

messages -

everyone so kind".


Behind each phrase the strain, the pain,

thin parchment skin dissolving

like crushed tissue-paper,

a little frown between her eyes,

flickering on and off.

Yet all her fears -

for family left to face the world

balanced by dignified acceptance.


The 'phone answered : "I'm still here".





The spires of Oxford fade behind the crouched 'Trout Inn' (scion of

a time-worn monastery)   From smoky, panelled rooms,

slim blondes supply choice Beef and Guiness Pie.

Trestles arrange both food and patrons beside the hurried millstream.


at lunch, suffering

the attentions of a wasp

to my beef pie


Mayfly children dart amongst gaily coloured tourist clobber.


a toddler cries:

through spread fingers

an aware glance


After the feast, further on, an unlikely, dramatically broken bridge. The crumbling footpath hung,

two thirds drunkenly twisted, it's last few slats vertical;

the final third, empty, on two supporting wires.


swinging in space

its wood walk twists in collapse:

bridge below the weir.

when you refused to look back

the emptiness beyond


Via tumbledown sheds, we hasten towards the broad 'Isis' (Thames)

its rims battered by the wash of pleasure-boats.


at the brittle bank

ceaselet wavelets slap. attack

the river verge


Further on, both towpath and the border; dry, brown and cropped by sheep.


a solo tree - beneath

resting sheep blanket

each inch of shade


We follow the river's curve, to a concrete monument, blessed by the God of Transport -

the M40, streaming with traffic


the Isis seems still

under concrete spans

it slides silently

beneath the polished shield

where rings gleam, fish chase flies


Beyond, the bank is shaded by a grove of trees; with wooden slats spanning a river inlet,

its waters inviting, cool and canopied.


on a limpid pool

a tiny water-boatman skims

over green veils


Emerging to the river bank; on a light beige mud shallow - a foot or more underwater,

swim hundreds of tiny semi-transparent fish.

a living, varying ribboned band


at my slightest move

as one, the throng of fry

turn in the stream


Returning to the conference, such pleasure found in shaded peace,

evening invading the wide lawns and woods, reflecting the care of centuries,

contrasted with decaying modern stonework


trees stretch black brush strokes

across the banded lawns

by summer's ruby sun





Deep in the veldt the farm, all corrugated roof,

dilapidated boarding, felt, the smell of tar.

trees twisted, tattered dry, clashed in the wind:

high over all a half-blurred windmill whirled.


Foolish, clad in sweat-stained khaki drill,

half-trined sprog navigator; figure approached.

They handed me, it seemed, a raw-boned hill.

"He's yours!" in panic, I tied him to a tree

with half a thrill.


how to explain ? I went in - such a hopeless task. "Tea?"

"Thanks, I said, (thinking, "I'd rather be in bed"}

Sandwiches offered, vacuum flask

"here's Jack, you're on your way boy, fast"

yet how to mount ? no mountaineer, I scrambled thankfully.


Jack, so roughly called - stood stolid - still for me -

he did not sense catastrophe !

So far, so good,

except my sweating neck

was 30 feet - it seemed, above the deck.

Yet what was worse,  I simply say -

before me was a pond  (well once it was)

but now as dry as hay.


Jack was determined and the bottom deep

quite six feet down sheer side, I could have cried,

with terror petrified. Still, I stayed on -

saw smothered grins, looked nonchalent - well, tried

uncertain, trotted, somewhat gained in pride.


That swift rich leave I galloped free,

scarce saw the farm, apart from sleep and food.

Kind folk, so good, to give a lonely kid

Ten days of life they understood - and after, so did he.


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