Wendy loved Songs FromTwo Continents and wanted to know more about what cultures had influenced Moris Farhi"s writing, and if he was still writing poetry:
Wendy: Why is the book called 'Songs from two Continents?
Moris: The ‘two continents' are Asia and Europe. I was born in Ankara, in Turkish Asia, and spent my youth there before moving to Istanbul. Then for the last 50 years or so I lived and worked in the UK. Thus, in terms of culture and sensibilities, I'm a product of those two continents. ‘Songs' refers to a tradition in Turkish folklore which advocates that poems should not only be read and recited, but also sung.
Wendy: In the poem 'Farewell Gift' did you find that by writing this poem it helped you in some way to come to terms with Nina's death?
Moris: I can't imagine that, save for those who believe in reincarnation or the after-life, there is a way for a person to come to terms with death. As John Dunne put it aptly "any man's death diminishes me". And, of course, the grief becomes unyielding when the deceased is someone who has been one's beloved twin-soul for decades. Consequently, I haven't come to terms with Nina's death and I don't expect that I will. For me ‘Farewell Gift' is both a love poem and a cri-de-coeur.
Wendy: The use of one word under the other is very effective, is this style unique to you?
Moris: I can't imagine the style is one that is unique to me. Surely, there are - and have been - countless poets who use it, too. In my case, I found it to be a style that allows me to be more expressive and emphasize what I want to emphasize. As your reviewer so kindly pointed out, "it enables the reader to focus on exactly what is being written".
Wendy: People interpret your poetry in their own way - does that make you careful in how you write a poem?
Moris: No. Whether writing novels or poems, I've always written what I felt I should write. I believe any writer who endeavours to write seriously always assumes that his/her work will be interpreted differently by any given reader. Sometimes the interpretations will be favourable, at other times unfavourable or even considered to be offensive. That's how it should be. Readers read in the expectation that writers will illumine aspects of the human nature and the virtues and failings they deliver to the world. This burdens the writer with the obligation to eschew the constrains of conventions and mores.
Wendy: How long have you been writing poetry?
Moris: On and off since I was 17. But, in the main, I am a novelist and can't consider myself a poet.
Wendy: Have you had any other books published besides poetry?
Moris: I have published six novels: The Pleasure of Your Death (Constable, 1972); The Last of Days (Bodley Head, 1983); Journey through the Wilderness (Macmillan, 1989); Children of the Rainbow (Saqi, 1999); Young Turk (Saqi, 2004); A Designated Man (Saqi/Telegram, 2009)
Wendy: Are you still writing poems?
Moris: No. I stopped since my wife, Nina, died. I can't see myself writing poems again, but one never knows.
Wendy: Songs from two Continents is a collection of some of your poems, did you compile it yourself with all the different categories?
Moris: Songs from two Continents is a collection of all the poems I wanted published. I didn't think that others that I wrote were good enough so they were banished to the waste-paper basket.
Wendy: I found some of your poems very emotional, especially the war poems and the poems concerning Nina. Do you always write in this genre?
Moris: I don't know how to answer this. I've never felt that I write to a genre. My work, be they novels or poems, have two subjects: love and man's inhumanity to man. I certainly get very emotional about these subjects, particularly about the barbarities of war and the interminable abuses of human rights that makes humankind renege love and worship conflict and brutal death.
Wendy: Who influences you in your writing style?
Moris: I'd say all the great writers in general, but no one in particular. I think a writer's style evolves in his/her way quite unconsciously as he/she absorbs the masterpieces of literature. Thereafter he/she is on his/her own and forever in doubt whether he/she is good enough to be considered a writer.
Wendy: Which authors or poets do you read?
Moris: Disregarding the classics which I consider is a must for every writer, I try to read as diversely as possible. The wealth that world literature offers is immeasurable. In terms of poetry, much as I admire many of the Western poets of our times, I'm still deeply in love with Turkish poetry. In my estimation Turkish poets write from their heart and viscera whereas most poets in the West tend to be cerebral.
Wendy: How long does it take to write a poem?
Moris: Impossible to say. I think every poem imposes its own time span. Some will demand weeks of hard work and polish; others are born, mysteriously, in a day or even in an hour.