Blake Morrison is best known for his autobiographical works ‘And When Did You Last See Your Father?’ and ‘Things My Mother Never Told Me’, which redefined the memoir form. He has also written fiction, poetry, journalism, literary criticism and libretti, and has adapted plays for the stage. Blake has been a Professor at Goldsmiths since 2003 and is the director of the Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre.
You’ve been at Goldsmiths for ten years this year. What is about the place that has kept you here?
“Yes, it will be 10 years in October, but my relationship with Goldsmiths goes right back, to when I ran a poetry workshop at the College in my mid-twenties. I like the energy of the place, the iconoclasm, the willingness to take risks and try new things.”
You live in South London and some of your writing is based here. What is about this area that inspires you?
“I come from the North (Yorkshire) but settled south of the river (Blackheath). It took me a while to write directly about South London; the landscapes in my head were all Pennine landscapes. But you can’t live in a place for long and avoid writing about it, and the river especially has begun to flow into my poems and novels – the Thames barrier and the Millennium Dome have already featured, and the Shard will be there in my next book.”
Is there any advice that you give in your teaching that you wish you’d taken yourself?
“Have confidence. Go for it. And keep going. I spent 15 years doing a full-time job as a books editor, writing only in spare moments, on the side. I wish I’d put my own writing at the centre of things a little earlier.”
How has your writing changed over the years? In what way has being at Goldsmiths shaped this?
“Teaching writing to others inevitably makes you more aware of what you’re up to in your own work. That isn’t necessarily a good thing – self-consciousness can be a curse – but at best you work harder to correct your faults, to ‘fail better’ as Samuel Beckett put it. I’ve certainly learned things from students I’ve worked with and I’m grateful for that.”
When you were younger did you ever expect to be a published writer, and do you still get a kick from seeing your name in print?
“I grew up in a middle-class family but it wasn’t a literary family and the idea of being a published writer seemed remote. So yes, it was a thrill to get my first poems published. That thrill hasn’t altogether gone away, to get a finished copy of a new book is always a big moment, but the bigger thrill these days is seeing young writers I’ve worked with at Goldsmiths have their books accepted.”