The group of writers I had grown up with in the ’60s – Derek Mahon, Michael Longley, James Simmons, John Hewitt, Paul Muldoon – formed a very necessary and self-sustaining group.
I suppose you could say my father’s world was Thomas Hardy and my mother’s D.H. Lawrence.
The problem as you get older… is that you become more self-aware. At the same time, you have to surprise yourself. There’s no way of arranging the surprise, so it is tricky.
When I first encountered the name of the city of Stockholm, I little thought that I would ever visit it, never mind end up being welcomed to it as a guest of the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Foundation.
The kinds of truth that art gives us many, many times are small truths. They don’t have the resonance of an encyclical from the Pope stating an eternal truth, but they partake of the quality of eternity. There is a sort of timeless delight in them.
It’s difficult to learn poems off by heart that don’t rhyme.
It is very true to say that work done by writers is quite often an attempt to give solid expression to that which is bothering them… They feel they have got it right if they express the stress.
The fact of the matter is that the most unexpected and miraculous thing in my life was the arrival in it of poetry itself – as a vocation and an elevation almost.
A public expectation, it has to be said, not of poetry as such but of political positions variously approvable by mutually disapproving groups.
As a young poet, you need corroboration, and that’s what publication does.