Interview with Andrew Hudgins

Robert W. Hill

BPR 41 | 2014

Gambol in the Face of Death: An Interview with Andrew Hudgins

Excerpt (full interview available in Birmingham Poetry Review number 41)


A variation, please forgive me, of “Whom do you read?” Often, whom we read isn’t directly applicable to what we write. In fact, as with some of those fictoneers who leapt onto the Hemingway or Faulkner or Carver or McCarthy style-wagon, or — God help them — those especially urgent young poets enthralled by what they thought they knew of Lorca (almost invariably only in translation) — such influences can be damaging, at least in the short term. So I wonder if you read, or have read, passels of writers (or types of writing) that you find, or found, helpful, informative, inspiring, influential, and so forth, and if you could also talk about some of the dead ends that you, the poet, may have read your way into.


I have always urged my students to go ahead and be absolutely enthralled with a writer they love — almost in the root sense of being a slave to that poet’s style. But if they come to me already in the thrall of Ted Hughes, which has happened a couple of times lately, I encourage them to read both the poets that Hughes loved — Blake, Shelley, Donne, and Eliot — as well as poets in very different modes — say, Bishop, Williams, Pound, or, Marlowe. As for the voices that I was in thrall to, there are many. Shakespeare is a given, as are Yeats, Eliot, Donne, and Lowell.

As an undergrad, I loved James Dickey, excited by his Southern and masculine subject matter. I fairly quickly became dubious of him for those same reasons, as well as his rhetorical excesses and his easy primitivism. That led me to Donald Justice, Dylan Thomas, Hopkins, and Chaucer. In my first round of graduate schools, I was consumed with Charles Simic and Louise Glück — both wonderful poets and terrible models for me, as are Dickinson and Whitman, try as I might to make them good ones for my purposes. I was slower to give myself over to Robert Frost, and I still find myself in a constant battle with him. Hughes, Milosz, and Bishop, even Keats — among many others — never quite got under my skin as deeply as I’d hoped they would.