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This interview is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

Michael Longley in Conversation Jody Allen Randolph

JODY ALLEN RANDOLPH: You are variously described as a nature poet, a love poet, a classical poet, a war poet, a political poet. Do any of these tags feel closer to home than others?

MICHAEL LONGLEY: I don't care for pigeonholing. I hope there are overlappings, the nature poetry fertilising the war poetry, and so on. Advancing on a number of fronts at the same time looks like a good idea: if there's a freeze-up at points along the line, you can trickle forward somewhere else. Love poetry is at the core of the enterprise - the hub of the wheel from which the other preoccupations radiate like spokes. In my next collection Snow Water there will be eleven new love poems. I wouldn't mind being remembered as a love poet, a sexagenarian love poet. I occasionally write poems about war - as a non-combatant. Only the soldier poets I revere such as Wilfred Owen and Keith Douglas produce what I would call proper war poetry. It's presumptuous to call oneself a poet. Anyone who begins a sentence `As a poet I...' is probably not a poet. It's like calling yourself a saint. It's what I most want to be. Since I favour intensity of utterance and formal compression, you could say that I am trying to be a lyric poet.

Your parents were English, and you were born and raised in Belfast, where the borders of the suburb met the countryside. Were ...


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