From Gregory Woods on Facebook

Today I finished reading the selected poems of Vladislav Khodasevich, whose work I hardly knew, in these wonderful translations by Peter Daniels. Not only are the poems themselves a revelation (you can see why Nabokov and Brodsky rated him so highly), but this edition is itself exemplary. Daniels’ notes are especially impressive, modestly explaining the judicious and complicated decisions he made while rendering the verse into English. More broadly, we’re reminded of how radically Modernism was able to transform the arts while remaining deeply rooted in tradition (in this case most solidly embodied in Pushkin).

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I’m joining in the Writing Process Blog Tour at the invitation of Colin Bell, whose first novel Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love is published by Ward Wood. His answers to the questions are at

What are you working on now?
I’m writing the odd new poem as usual, and also getting back to some translating from Russian, but mainly I’m trying to sort out a backlog of poems that have got stuck in the “Working on” folder and forgotten about. Brushing up the ones that have anything in them, and getting together some possible pamphlets. Maybe also thinking about another book, though I wouldn’t want to rush that.

Why is your work different from other work in the same genre?
It’s mine, I suppose, which is a rather feeble answer. You could say I’m a fairly plain mainstream poet, and I like poems to sound good and come over well when spoken, but I don’t think I’m very classifiable. I try to be quite various in what I do, which can be a problem for gathering things together. Quite a lot of my subject matter is explicitly gay (more in the last few years than it was for a while) which can either embarrass people or get me put into a neat ghetto. That doesn’t necessarily go so well with translating from Russian, for instance.

Why do you write like you do?
I’m an editor, so I like to be clear, or if I’m not there has to be a reason for it. I like craft without making a fetish of it. I play with words but I don’t get carried away. With the translations I’ve especially enjoyed finding a music in English to match the Russian, and that mostly has meant using strict metre and rhyme which I do in my own poems too but not so much. Rhythm got into me early as a poetry reader and it’s always there, but I don’t want to be relentless with it either, except in the occasional poem where that’s the intended effect.

Probably a lot of what I write is observation rather than participation, though I’m usually in the picture somewhere.

How does your writing process work?
Trying to surprise myself. I start writing with a choice of five out of a box of words, mixed vocabulary – several magnetic sets combined with words from things like paint charts – plus a photo I’ve taken (so it’s like a notebook entry on an experience, not just a picture), and a phrase out of my pocket notebook. A lot of the time this doesn’t turn into a poem, but often enough. I type them up and often forget them, which is why I’ve got this backlog. It’s the revising which happens much later that turns all this into a poem if it’s going to happen. The revising can go on for years. I worry sometimes that the randomness is getting a bit samey but I haven’t found a better trigger, other than going to a group where we’re set homework, which I’ve also been doing. Those poems usually get settled more quickly because I know more clearly what I’m trying to say in them.

I’m now passing the baton of these questions to two bloggers for next week:

Elaine Axten lives in London and has two blogs,

Roger Boylan is a novelist and critic who lives in Texas. His blog is