Pinter on Pinter

Gussow: Could you trace the genesis of "Old Times"?
Pinter: I think I wrote it last winter. Yes, last winter. About a year ago. Well, there's nothing I can tell you about that because it was just a very odd thing really. It was one of those times when you think you're never going to write again. I was lying on the sofa [downstairs in his house in Regent's Park, London] reading the paper and something flashed in my mind. It wasn't anything to do with the paper.
Something to do with the sofa?
The sofa perhaps, but certainly not the paper. I rushed upstairs to my room. I live in a very tall house. I usually find great difficulty getting to the top. But, like lightning, I was up.
What was the thought?
I think it was the first couple of lines of the play. I don't know if they were actually the first lines. [Quickly] Two people talking about someone else. But then I really went at it. Incidentally, you did ask me for my "fourth." {main interest in life} Actually what it is is reading. I read a great deal of poetry.
What poets?
Recently I rediscovered Pope. I haven't read him since school. Lines and verses are always on my mind. Donne. Gerard Manley Hopkins. "Margaret/ Are you grieving/ over Goldengrove/ unleaving." Modern poetry. Philip Larkin. Yeats and Eliot.
Do you still write poetry - as poetry?
Yes. I've written two poems in the last couple of years. Very short. I wrote one about six months ago, about seven lines, but I remember I did 13 drafts of it.
How many drafts of plays do you usually write?
About three. But that was as important to me as anything of mine - that poem. But you know any poem is - emotionally. I used to write a great deal of poetry a long time ago.
It does seem to me, again about the last three plays, that they1re more lyrical. Is that something you're aware of?
Yes, I am aware of it. I think it's very dangerous territory.
Why is it dangerous territory?
You can fall on your arse very easily in attempting to express in, if you like, "lyrical" terms what is actually happening to people


from Pinter: The Playwright, Martin Esslin, Methuen, London 1970

If I write about a lamp, I apply myself the the demands of that lamp. If I write about a flower, I apply myself to the demands of that flower. In most cases, the flower has singular properties as opposed to the lamp...Flower, lamp, tinopener, tree..tend to take alteration from a different climate and circumstance and I must necessarily attend to that singular change with the same devotion and allowance. I do not intend to impose or distort for the sake of an ostensible "harmony" of approach.

What you want from my writing is not self-expression, but self-confession, and you're not going to get it. You want me to open wide my doors ( possibly from a "moral") standpoint. That is neither my inclination, nor, more important, my purpose.

From Critical Essays on Harold Pinter pub G. K. Hall & Co Boston 1990
A Conversation [Pause] with Harold Pinter - Mel Gussow
(first published New York Times 5/12/1971)

Amazon   Faber & Faber   Slate   Royal National Theatre   Comedie Francaise   Samuel french
Internal Links: Plays | Films | Biography | Poetry | Politics | Acting | Directing | Publications | Calendar | Links | Forum | Archive | Home
External Links: Faber and Faber | | | National Theatre | Comedie-Francaise | Gate Theatre | Ticketmaster | | Slate | Amnesty
Other Items: The Observer | Letter to the Independent | Depleted Uranium | One For The Road | No Mans Homecoming | New World Order | Degree Speech
Harold Pinter's work is represented by Judy Daish Associates Limited - and applications for all performances and uses of Harold Pinter's work (including amateur and professional stage performances, radio broadcasts, television transmissions and readings and use of extracts) need to be addressed to them in the first instance and in advance of finalizing your plans. Judy Daish Associates will then contact the Estate of Harold Pinter (Lady Antonia Fraser Pinter) if appropriate. The Estate should not be contacted directly for permissions. Please do not assume that a licence or permission will be forthcoming as there are sometimes conflicts between permission requests.
© Harold Pinter 2000 - 2012 All Rights Reserved | Disclaimer