Looking back at those difficult years now, do you feel that the silent
stretches were detrimental to your work?
If I hadn’t been fighting battles on other fronts, I might have been scribbling boring middle-aged verse – like MacNeice who twittered on for a decade until the miraculous final poems. It seems that the Muse favours the young and then, if you can weather the middle stretch’, the pensioners. Silence is part of the enterprise. Most poets write and publish far too much. They forget the agricultural good sense of the fallow period. The Muse despises whingers who bellyache aboutwriter’s block’ and related
One of the best things ever said to me about poetry was John Hewitt’s off-
hand remark: `If you write poetry, it’s your own fault.’
JODY ALLEN RANDOLPH – Michael Longley in Conversation
This interview is taken fromÂ PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November – December 2004.
I was relieved to see that I not the only middle-aged poet who had a fallow period. Until now I thought my future was more akin to a Larkinesque slump as he detailed in the majestic yet sad refrain on this late poem…
THE WINTER PALACE
by Philip Larkin
Most people know more as they get older:
I give all that the cold shoulder.
I spent my second quarter-century
Losing what I had learnt at university.
And refusing to take in what had happened since.
Now I know none of the names in the public prints,
And am starting to give offence by forgetting faces
And swearing Iâ€™ve never been in certain places.
It will be worth it, if in the end I manage
To blank out whatever it is that is doing the damage.
Then there will be nothing I know.
My mind will fold into itself, like fields, like snow.
So maybe like Longley (still alive at 81!) the best is yet to come….or some is yet to come ….