My friend Lynn Davidson, who writes lyric poetry and loves Seamus Heaney, shouted me a ticket to hear Paul Muldoon on the thirteenth of March, at the Writers and Readers Festival. I had not heard of Muldoon. He read some of his poems, of course, and spoke about writing poetry, in response to various questions.
In my little notebook I drew a picture of a wave, and wrote these words:
These are versions of Muldoon’s comments which I wrote down:
Giving oneself over to one of the codified forms of ignorance is a form of humility and release
Poems are between what is found and what is made
The chemistry and physics of mixing unconscious and virtuosity
The appeal to the unconscious
If the poet knows what they’re doing, it’s too obvious
The pressure per square inch of a poem
I loved the poems he read, felt inspired to write like this, ran out and bought all his books, and got them signed. Classic rush of blood to the head, commonly brought on by too much coffee, but also occurring at festivals.
I loved the introductions that Muldoon gave to his poems; casual sounding chats, which gave all the necessary background to the poem, without being the poem in a dull form.
I only knew how good the introductions really were when I brought the books of poetry home and tried to read them by myself.
I found I could read the poems he had scaffolded for me, but the others were just too hard. Back on the shelf.
Some months went by I worked
on my own writing which
never seemed to change
At this time I was reading Charles Simic, whose work I liked, in the sense of ‘recognised the feeling of’ and admired for its elegance, but when I read his work, my writing seemed to get shorter and meaner.
In the break in June, I had the Irish idea that instead of reading things that were a bit like my work, I should read whatever was its opposite. I got out the Paul Muldoon books and started reading them, to try and see if I could find the kind of life which seemed to be the exact opposite of my default writing tone.
I wanted more sprawl, and more digression, and to be honest, more fun.