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In the news - Graham Clifford

Graham Clifford, 38, is an assistant headteacher at Buxton School in Leytonstone, east London. He has been writing poetry for 10 years and picked up the Poetry Wales Purple Moose Prize 2010, winning the chance to have a collection of his poems published. It is called Welcome Back to the Country and is available from www.serenbooks.combookspoetry

When did you get serious about writing poetry?

"I did a masters in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in 2001, studying under then poet laureate Andrew Motion. My work has been published in various magazines since then, and I've performed at the Hay-on-Wye and Bridport literary festivals."

What themes do you explore?

"I've lived in London since I came to study fine art in 1992, but I grew up in the country, in Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire. I feel very lucky to feel attached to both the country and the city and this throws up some interesting angles. It is about trying to find the beautiful in the mundane and sometimes ghastly. One poem, Nowhere Fast, is about being in London - it's a riot when you are walking around. My work is also humorous, but it's not comedy poetry."

Give us a line from one of your poems ...

"Trapped for ever in this town

a green, open prison with too much sky,

too much surface area cooling quickly down"

Do you bring your poetry into the classroom?

"I've used it a lot. I'm always looking for ways to get pupils from different schools in the area to share their work. We have a poetry week coming up, with creative writing sessions, and we are always making links with local writers. I've used teaching as a theme in a couple of poems in my new collection."

Which poets do you particularly admire?

"I'm a fan of the American writer Tony Hoagland who deals with contemporary, urban life. I also like Billy Collins - he's very readable and humorous."

What else do you do in your spare time?

"I spend time with my daughters and my partner, who is an artist. I also do my own art and like to visit galleries."

Are you performing in the near future?

"Yes, I have dates at the Waltham Forest Literature Festival in May and at the Troubadour cafe in Earls Court during the summer."

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