Flee the hutch to find fruits of forest

December 8, 2006

Name : David Morley

Age : 42

Jobs: Poet, associate professor and director of the Warwick University Writing Programme. Salary : Poetry is the opposite of money.

Education/ background : I was a zoologist at Bristol University then at the Freshwater Biological Association in Windermere. After an unhappy end to my science career, I spent many years as a freelance writer before joining Warwick in 1996 as poet-in-residence.

Working hours and conditions : With our year-round visiting writers events, community programme and academic writing programmes, the Warwick Writing Programme is open all hours. As for conditions, Warwick could not have acted better when, ten years ago, I was a single parent of a one-year-old.

Number of students you teach/staff you work with : Of the 60 writing courses developed at Warwick, about one third are creative; the rest take place in the departments of physics, chemistry, computer science, biology and business. Our ethos is that, at their best, all writers are creative. We also run a schools and community programme.

Biggest challenge this year : Resolving the riddle of writing my poems partly in Romani (I am partly Romani), which will appear in my next collection, The Invisible Kings.

What your working space is like? I inhabit one hutch in a tiled battery of humanities hutches. But next year sees the opening of the "Writers' Room" in Warwick's Centre for Creativity and Performance in Teaching and Learning.

What university facilities do you use : The whole campus is a classroom. Warwick occupies a quite glorious green site. One stand of woods is a remnant of Shakespeare's ancient Forest of Arden: I teach a sonnet course in that woodland.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally and how do you cope with them? Theorists: the walking shades of practitioners. If their writing is any good then one copes by reading that person's character at its best - in a book. If their writing is empty, there is no hope except to quote Rilke at them: "You must change your life", and then run.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? Interdisciplinarity is a natural intellectual (and emotional) ecology for me. I hope I get across in my teaching the fact that you can make a life out of poetry, and need not conform to any stale or stereotyped notion of what a poet is.

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