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This interview is taken from PN Review 223, Volume 41 Number 5, May - June 2015.

In Conversation with Paul Muldoon Adam Crothers
This conversation with Paul Muldoon took place on a crisp morning in January 2015, shortly after the publication of his collection One Thousand Things Worth Knowing. He was in Cambridge to deliver the Clark Lectures on ‘Yeats and the Afterlife’; we spoke for an hour at Trinity College, in a spartan guest room livened by a few books and, on the coffee table between us, a fuchsia orchid.

ADAM CROTHERS: When I told a friend that your new book was called One Thousand Things Worth Knowing, he said ‘Oh, does this mean he’s finally going to tell us something useful?

PAUL MULDOON: Well, of course, that’s an interesting response. I’m not sure if your friend generally looks to poetry for telling us some things that are useful…?

Do you think many people do?

I think many people have been encouraged to look there more than, perhaps, they should. Though I think it’s true that poetry may help us to understand aspects of the world and think about the world in unexpected, revelatory ways, I’m not sure if I have ever quite accepted that it has a use, that there’s a utility in terms of helping us live our lives. That is certainly a theory of poetry that we’ve seen have some currency, and indeed I think Seamus Heaney probably believed something along those lines. It’s a tradition in recent years that one can see extending through Seamus to people like Czesław Miłosz. It’s a theory of poetry which suggests that it might be able ...


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