Nov 15, 2023
Here’s how the Carcanet Press website describes him: Michael Schmidt FRSL, poet, scholar, critic and translator, was born in Mexico in 1947; he studied at Harvard and at Wadham College, Oxford, before settling in England. Among his many publications are several collections of poems and a novel, The Colonist (1981), about a boy’s childhood in Mexico. He is general editor of PN Review and founder as well as managing director of Carcanet Press."
Michael has been applying his judgement publishing poetry and fiction for more than fifty years “discovering” and rediscovering, along the way, many of the greatest writers of our age.
We met at the Carcanet offices in Manchester to talk about, among others things, what he does; Germans in Mexico; the love of poetry; The Harvard Advocate; magazines as good tools for book editors; the importance of the past; the difference between editing books and magazines; poets John Ashbery and Edgell Rickword; writers starting on the left; generous patrons: Baron Robert Gavron; prosody; syllabics; leaving room for the reader; overproduction being a straight path to bankruptcy; an education at Oxford; Milton; the Understanding Poetry anthology; writing letters; the centrality of politics; notions of balance and continuity; principles of permanence and change; the difference between taste and judgement; catalysts; the Yiddish saying: “One word is not enough, two is too many.” Changing literary culture; Wallace Stevens; enhancing, extending and revitalizing the language…all this in tandem with a chorus of Manchester trams piping in, in the background, throughout the conversation.