An Interview with David Miller
Spring 2014

RML: I have several collected and selected poems by David Miller on my shelf. What's different about Reassembling Still?

DM: It's easily the largest and most comprehensive collection of my poetry. Some people said to me in the past, why are you leaving so much out? I came to agree with them.

RML: You've spoken before about arranging these volumes by affinities, and I notice many of the groupings of texts in
Reassembling Still are identical or very similar to those in In the Shop of Nothing, your 2007 new & selected.

In the Shop of Nothing is the best of those previous collections. I think I got it right, in terms of the affinities, resonances, etc. But it was indeed a new and selected poems, not a collected.

RML: I've always wondered about the endless revising and editing you do of your work. Can you explain that urge, and why you're not willing to accept texts as finished at a certain point in time? Perhaps of that certain time…

DM: I'm not concerned with the idea of perfection, but I do want my poetry to work as well as possible, within its own terms. If I see a way to achieve this, then that's what I do - at whatever stage.

RML To quote: 'so is this image poetry?'

DM: I think someone asked me that once, and I said 'No'. And that's what's said in the poem. There are images in my poetry, but I don't believe in making a fetish of the image. I think I was probably reacting against someone like Robert Bly, who did make a fetish of the image. (I thought he was a dreadful writer.)

RML: You've talked about this before, but more and more there seems slippage and leeway between your prose and poetry. Several of the texts in
The Waters of Marah, a book of selected prose, turn up in Reassembling Still!

DM: I included the prose poems, or poems in prose, from The Waters of Marah in this new book, because it seemed like a mistake to go on separating my poems in prose from my poems in lines. I didn't include one piece from The Waters of Marah, Tesserae, which I think of as fiction.

RML: Can you talk about your other artistic practices, your music and art, in relation to your writing? Do they stem from similar creative urges or processes? Do you see them as in relationship to your writing?

DM: I think it all exists in some sort of relationship, the poetry to the music, the music to the art, the art to the poetry. But the music and the art are very much improvised, created on the spur of the moment, whereas the poetry is created much more slowly and with much rewriting.

RML: Your notes and conversation are always full of references to spiritual writers, artists, musicians and people. Can you share whose work you are reading, looking at and listening to at the moment?

DM: The composers Gloria Coates and Andrezej Panufnik, the poet Guy Birchard, the fiction writer S Y Agnon, the cut paper work by Matisse I've just seen at Tate Modern. J S Bach, always. Ali Akbar Khan, always. Jimmy Giuffre, always. (I seem to be listening to music more these days than reading or looking at art, to be honest.) This probably only makes sense to me! Trying to synthesise these people's work would be a nightmare. I like complexities and contradictions, in some respects and in some contexts at least. Though I'd have to admit that simplicity has a strong attraction for me, as well, as I think is evident from some of my more minimalist work.

RML: How is your Spiritual Letters coming along? Can you talk about any perceived trajectory there, a long-term plan? And why more recent installments are lengthier prose than the early volumes; and why the work seems so separate to your other writing?

DM: The sixth series is to be published by Like This Press in Manchester, sometime this year, and I'm very happy about this. I've never had any overall plan for the work. It happens as it happens, and that includes whether individual pieces are longer or shorter. At a certain point I seemed to need that greater length. It might not be the case in future. When I started the series, I had it in mind that it could potentially be endless, and that within each individual piece I had to keep things moving. That's really all. Well, maybe not all, but hopefully it will do for now, if that's OK.

RML: Like myself (and I say this to assure you it is not a criticism) you have a prolific publications record, but how do you see pamphlets, postcards and chapbooks in relation to the more substantial paperback publications of your work?

DM: Smaller publications, of whatever size/format, can be as interesting in their way as larger publications - and they can be in a sense “truer” to certain pieces of writing. The way that writing is presented materially is of considerable interest to me.

© David Miller & Rupert Loydell 2014