Why did you leave Ireland?

Question: Why did you leave Ireland?

Paul Muldoon: There were a number of things that happened, a number of components and I may not even quite understand to this day why I left.

But certainly it was only afterwards that I realized there must be some connection between my father’s death in 1985 and my leaving there in 1986, which just hadn’t struck me at the time. But part of the reason I was holding on was on some level to be near him.

There was also fact that I met and fell in love with a woman; we lived in Belfast for a while, but it was necessarily her favorite spot.

There was also the fact that, my job, much as I loved it, really was, it was coming to the point where it was extremely demanding, particularly working in television and, waking up in the middle of the night wondering if it was going to rain the next day, for example--the kind of concern that the television folk have. But I realized that I probably would not be able to write to the extent that I would like, even though poetry was the thing that was most of interest to me, and even though actually I spend very little time writing poetry, and never have spent much time writing poetry, physically, in terms of the number of hours in the year. Even so, I felt some other was time to move, time to go on. 

Also, I was asked pretty much coincidentally if I’d like to come over here and do some teaching, over here to the US that’s to say. So there were a number of things coming together, and it’s--I still feel very close to the place, very close to it; and go back there all the time.

It now is extraordinarily easy to hop in the plane in Newark in the evening and five or six hours later, depending on the winds, one’s in Belfast. There’s a direct flight to Belfast from New York and that makes one’s sense of one’s place very different I think.

Not so long ago when my cousins, my uncles or my neighbors were coming over to the US, and this in the 20th century, and, of course, in the earlier centuries, the chances of their ever being able to afford to come back were slender. The length of time it took to come back was large, so it was a much different proposition, so for the moment anyhow--of course, who knows when oil runs how it’s going to be--but for the moment it’s comparatively easy to get back and forth.

I lived there until I was 35 and left so I have been here for more than 20 years. So much of it comes with one. It’s ingrained in me that I know, even now, I know the country very, very well. My sense of it is very good in terms of what that road looks like between wherever and wherever in which ever county of Ireland. Though it’s changed a lot too, much of it has remained the same.


Recorded on: Jan 30, 2008

Love and death kept Muldoon in Ireland, and prompted him to leave.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

In Switzerland, gun ownership is high but mass shootings are low. Why?

In the face of seemingly unstoppable gun violence, Americans could stand to gain by looking to the Swiss.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • According to a recent study, the U.S. had the second highest number of gun-related deaths in 2016 after Brazil.
  • Like the U.S., Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership. However, it has a considerably lower rate of deaths from gun violence.
  • Though pro-gun advocates point to Switzerland as an example of how gun ownership doesn't have to correlate with mass shootings, Switzerland has very different regulations, practices, and policies related to guns than America.
Keep reading Show less

Is this why time speeds up as we age?

We take fewer mental pictures per second.

(MPH Photos/giphy/yShutterstock/Big Think)
Mind & Brain
  • Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
  • In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
  • The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
Keep reading Show less