Do you speak Irish?

The Irish language was highly politicized in Muldoon's youth.
  • Transcript


Question: Do you speak Irish? 

Paul Muldoon: I speak it now about once every ten years or so. But in fact, when I was younger, when I was a teenager, I learned Irish. I learned it at the grammar school, secondary school, high school and in the way I began to learn Latin or French at the age of 12 or so.

There were a few words before then, of course, that were introduced into our vocabulary, but in a way that was very much underhand. One was not strictly speak--it was not the language of the state if anything. If anything, it would have been perceived in many quarters as being somewhat actually against the state. It was a highly politicized language and still is, for better the worse. I hope actually that will change.

So by the time I was 18, for example, I did much better in my Irish exams than I ever did in my English exams, and studied it for a couple of years at university and was quite, pretty good with it.

But, as I said, I am out of the way, I really don’t have the same kind of facility, not the very huge facility, but a reasonable facility in it.

I still do some translation from Irish, mostly from one particular writer, Enula Negonal. She was the great Irish language poet of the era, so I go back mostly to read her poems, to make sense of them by translating them and so that’s the Irish language experience.

But I went off as a kid, for example, in the way that American kids go to camp, summer camp. We went to language camp, as it were, off to the far flung little areas of Ireland on the west coast, predominantly small, poor areas that had been hard-to-find, out-of-the way spots, islands, peninsulas where the Irish language is still being spoken.


Recorded on: Jan 30, 2008