The Difficult William Empson

Martin Johnston outside Exiles bookshop, Oxford Square, Sydney, 1980, at a reading for Canberra poet Robert BrissendenMJ: “…I remember a poetry reading years ago which William Empson gave at a pub in London. And he read a series of very, very opaque poems, and made two comments on them. One of them was “By God I was good, when I wrote that!”. The other was “I can’t really see what the difficulty is.” And his audience evidently could.” Australian poet Martin Johnston, being interviewed by John Tranter, Radio Helicon, ABC Radio National, 1987.
Photo: Martin Johnston, Oxford Street, Taylor Square, Sydney, 1980, outside Exiles bookshop. The poster in the background is a silkscreen poster by John Tranter: “We’re With you, Ray! (Ray Denning, fugitive from Justice, later killed). It’s better to be up and doing than down and being done.” Photo by John Tranter.