What I try to do is to go into a poem – and one writes them, of course, poem by poem – to go into each poem, first of all without having any sense whatsoever of where it’s going to end up.
I met Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley on the same day in 1968. I was sixteen at the time. Very exciting. They were reading at Armagh. One of my teachers brought me to meet them, introduced me, and I became friends with them.
Believe it or not, one of the first poets I was aware of was Yeats. I recited ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ at a verse speaking competition when I was eight or nine.
We simply have not kept in touch with poetry.
Frost isn’t exactly despised but not enough people have worked out what a brilliant poet he was.
Of course, you can’t legislate for how people are going to read.
One will never again look at a birch tree, after the Robert Frost poem, in exactly the same way.
On the other hand, at some level the mass of unresolved issues in Northern Ireland does influence the fact that there are so many good writers in the place.
I was born in Northern Ireland in 1951. I lived most of my life there until 1986 or 1987.
That’s one of the great things about poetry; one realises that one does one’s little turn – that you’re just part of the great crop, as it were.