In Conversation with Ruth Padel, March 2021

This is a short extract from the first of the two Zoom interviews I held with Ruth Padel in March 2021, the transcript of which is published in The North issue 66. Both interviews can be found on my Youtube channel

Yvonne Green

Poems platform questions and leave space for reader’s answers, at the same time claiming the territory of the page. Your work vivifies characters, be they Crete’s Jews, Darwin, Beethoven, and even death beds, like in ‘Nursing Wing’ in your collection Emerald.

Ruth Padel

That book had an interesting genesis; I was interested in what humans value, why we sometimes value bits of green stone, more than gold. The first emeralds were discovered in Colombia – their history’s extraordinary: Spanish and Portuguese ships carried them to India where they were cut and worked on in Delhi. The city of Jaipur, founded in the 18th century, became the great Mecca of emerald workers. I went to Columbia and talked emeralds to people; the gems are found in carbonic rock – a hot, black mineral – so the idea of green emeralds as emblems of luck and renewal is counter-intuitive.

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When I Interviewed Louise Glück in May 2010

I was at Yale’s Beinecke reading in Yehuda Amichai and Joseph Brodsky’s archives. Louise was teaching and I ‘phoned to ask her if she’d let me attend her creative writing classes. She said she couldn’t because the group’s equilibrium might be disturbed. The terms she used I think were “trust” and “built over time”. She was spare, but warm. I immediately felt I’d learned a lot about the space, possibility and scope a class creates. And how to maintain that. About the level of respect required to foster that space.

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