Monday, March 17, 2008

Interview with Paul Muldoon

My plan is to put up a post after each session, giving a rough overview of what we covered, and also any further points you might like to explore over the next fortnight.

There wasn't time for much more than the "Make yourself a Susan Howe poem" exercise in our first, introductory, meeting, but I'm hoping to make up for that tonight.

There's an interesting interview with Paul Muldoon in the Listener for February 23-38 (pp.36-38). There are various points there about the influence (or, rather, the long shadow) of Seamus Heaney over his work which will be helpful for our purposes, I think.

One critical expression to ponder might be the anxiety of influence, a theory outlined in Harold Bloom's classic 1973 book of the same title. I quote from his own summary:

Every poem is a misinterpretation of a parent poem. A poem is not an overcoming of anxiety, but is that anxiety. Poets' misinterpretations of poems are more drastic than critics' misinterpretations or criticism, but this is only a difference in degree and not at all in kind. There are no interpretations but only misinterpretations, and so all criticism is prose poetry.

This very influential idea is found throughout Muldoon's recent book of essays, The End of the Poem (2006), where he appears to argue that every other poem that ever existed can be cited as a clue for understanding the one under discussion ...

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