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Paul Muldoon is a writer, academic and educator, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from County Armagh, Northern Ireland.  Since 1987 he has lived in the United States, where he[…]

Muldoon talks about how meeting the great poet Seamus Heaney.

Question: When did you become a poet?

Paul Muldoon:  I don’t remember this, but I probably wrote some thing, when I was age of nine. Most people do. And in fact most people are at their absolute best in the poetry business, when they were in that age. Because they have no preconceptions, i.e. misconceptions, about what a poem is. They no idea what they are doing. And I believe, for that reason alone, and have a much stronger chance of actually doing it.

And the most circumspect in the great thing, the more one knows actually, the more dangerous, difficult it becomes, in the strange way.

I remember early on, when I was twelve, writing a poem about a fort called Charlamont Fort, near I was brought up, which has been burned down in fact, in the 1920s. Of the tunnels, referring to early on and it. I was comparing and contrastingly glories, as it were, of that hero and my innocence, and I was unless beat and start forge.

Of the time that they built in Jamestown, for example, and I was astonished relevant to the reconstruction and [inaudible] for every qualities of the Jamestown site, to see on the wall aid depiction of this very Fort, were that was built would right for I was brought up.

So I was comparing and contrasting the glories of the age, and with that beats, would go, let's goes the filthy modern times. And I used this place again up on, the reek of gasoline and the teacher said to me, "Gasoline? I suppose you mean petrol?"

So in other words and one of the other components that I didn’t quite go on like around mentioning there in terms of the back of the mind and when I was being reared in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, was the huge influence of American culture; British culture of course. But also American culture. Television; we watched all the television and serious, particular western of course. We saw all the new American movies and read books of course, reared on those also. So that, gasoline, was likely have component than our speeches as petrol.

So I started there was the first poem that I remember writing, I don’t have it or any thing but then what those of a teenager started adverting in earnest does were and in the way that only with all the earnest in this that only a teenager can muster, when you are 15 or 16 years, you are a serious person.

But I was very lucky, early on, that I met a number of people. I was encouraged by my teachers. They were quite wonderful in that sense. They really encouraged me and others many others, not just me many others they encouraged to write. They introduced us contemporary poetry and classes for example and also they introduced us physically to contemporary poems. When I was a teenager of about 16 and invite it’s 1960 yet, it for almost 40 years ago and to but 40 years ago most of the day, I was introduced to Seamus Heaney. He was very welcoming to me.  And, funny enough, I was talking with them yesterday, I think the most of day before and just the read in the little poem for him, he was given a medal by the Royal Irish academy, which was founded by a man called Lord Charlomon and which is after whom the Fort that I mentioned any how on this whose names comes rhyme in some way, and though he was very good to me and others were very good to me and very encouraging.

Apart from that, there was the realization, which I think I mean we have heard about it many times, but I think it’s really important for how we get to do any thing at all write poetry, fix cars, get interested in invention and the physics or whatever it might be. And it’s the idea that I can do that. An we've heard this a hundred times, million times but, certainly in this case, but was true those to sense of the people, who were not so unlike ourselves, we came from just off the road and they were writing poetry. As if writing poetry where perfectly reasonable thing to be doing. It was not something to be shamed of. I was not surfing the death people did and exclusively and I have actually one could have a girl. I am sure that’s really important and from most writers and what that sense of they got.

Generally from the teacher, I think if you scratch most writers, there is a teacher just under the service. I enough to say that they will acknowledge some person, probably a teacher who gave them a blessing of some kind. Get them go a head.

Question: What was the most important piece of advice you got?

Paul Muldoon: I think again just the sense that, that anybody could do this but in some sense that, one can do this. That one could write about the bits and pieces of ones life, the fabric of ones life.  One might have read Robert Frost’s poem after apple picking, say. But in fact, next door to where I was grown up, let that they feel next door was an not an apple orchard, and one night as easily be writing about that is have Robert Frost. 

Seamus Heaney, I think opened the world, were others ever been involved in this but don’t only Patrick Calvin from the slightly earlier generation, who signaled, I suppose, the fact that one could write about the matter of Ireland, the stuff of what was, essentially, still a peasent society and the society that changed very little actually and for long time, for example, when I was a kid there were a lot of horses about. It was partly because of the petrol or the gasoline rationing during the second world war, but it was spells of because, there was still simply quite a lot of the poem and there was slight look in to, as supposed universal knowledge some where in middle Europe, kind of actually other they would have probably gone beyond that not. There are a very few host his time in the about.

Any way, I think that was the main lesson, the lesson that if from one could make poetry out of a life that, we might have been lead to believe, we might have been lead to believe was too humdrum, ordinary, un-poetic, and that making poetry was for other people. For other people, for smart people, for the people who the leisure to do it, for people who were good at the language, rather than just for ordinary people like ourselves basically.

Recorded on: Jan 30, 2008