The End of the Poems? Paul Muldoon on Giving Up.

No, he’s not giving up, thankfully. But in an interview published earlier this month, poet and critic Paul Muldoon – who will give the keynote address, as well as reading from his own work, at dlr Poetry Now 2010 – does some pretty frank talking about the responsibilities of the poet when it becomes clear that the poetry isn’t working anymore. He could “absolutely” stop writing poetry, Muldoon tells Nancy Sheehan, a reporter with the Telegram (a local paper in Worcester, Massachusetts); he thinks that “probably poets should think much more about stopping than they generally do.” Muldoon has a few good friends who would be willing – at least, he says, he hopes they would be willing – to take him aside and say (in Muldoon’s own imagining of those fateful words): “You know what? You may have been OK at one point along the way but you’ve absolutely lost it now and you should just stop.” 

And the news gets worse: 

One of the terrible facts about writing poetry is that actually one almost certainly disimproves as one continues…Most people who write poetry get worse. There are various other callings, one thinks, for example, of math. Most people involved with math, from what I understand, peak if they peak at all, earlier in their careers. And poetry, for whatever reason, it’s hard to write decent poetry in the first place and it’s very hard to continue to write it.

Well, there you have it. And that’s Muldoon “in very good form”, as he tells the interviewer earlier in the piece, prompting the question of how a gloomy Muldoon might put it all…

The interview (read it in full here) contains some other nice detail, including Muldoon’s feeling for snow (as Peter Høeg might put it) and his thoughts on the title of his forthcoming collection, Maggot. Most readers are bound, straight off the bat, to think of the lesser-loved larval crawler, but there’s more to it than that, says Muldoon; a maggot is also “a capricious, whimsical thought, a piece of music – a dance tune usually – so there are other things going on.”

There’ll be plenty going on, no doubt, at all three events featuring Paul Muldoon next month at dlr Poetry Now – catch his keynote address Six Irish Poets on Thursday, March 25th, his cameo in Landmarks, our event to mark the 40th anniversary of The Gallery Press, on Saturday March 27th, and his own reading that evening (along with Homero Aridjis and Anne Stevenson). All three events will take place in the Pavilion Theatre, Dun Laoghaire, and all three events are sure to demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, the unstoppable phenomenon that is Muldoon the poet and thinker on poems

More details at And up to date here at the festival blog as the countdown to dlr Poetry Now 2010 begins. 




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