This edition: Billy Collins & Paul MuldoonTweet
Original tape date: December 19, 2013.
First aired: January 3, 2014.
This episode of “Irish Writers in America,” a new 13 part series from CUNY TV (City University of New York television station), features interviews with Billy Collins, two-term Poet Laureate of the United States, and Paul Muldoon, Ireland’s best-selling premiere poet and poetry editor of The New Yorker.
Billy Collins talks about how he approaches the making of poems, teaching poetry, the early years of his career in which he nearly gave up, and how he came into his poetic “voice.” He explains the years of imitative poetry he wrote that led to his understanding of the potential for humor in poems, and what it was like to compose and read a commissioned poem to Congress in the wake of 9/11. A poet of tremendous generosity and warmth, Collins opens up about his own ethnic identity, the minimal role – as he sees it – of his Irish-ness in his work, and his work as Poet Laureate to give high school students the chance to interact with poetry without the intermediary of a teacher.
Paul Muldoon emphasizes the need for people to read poetry in order to understand how to read poetry, comparing it to the endless work people tend to put in learning how to watch television and movies. He talks about the idea of his work being inaccessible and about the way in which young students are often taught poetry in a way that makes them feel alienated from it. His childhood in rural Ireland, and his interest from an early age in American culture, particularly Western movies, makes this interview a good window through which to view his long-standing relationship with America, where he has now lived and taught for many years. Speaking from the offices of Princeton University, where he teaches, Muldoon makes clear what it is that drives him to write poetry and describes the process of how the poems are written “through” him, rather than by him.
Featuring preeminent poets from both sides of the Atlantic, this episode shows the commonalities between poets whose work could not be more different.