Arts Q&A: Paul Muldoon on Leonard Cohen, Ben Hur(s) and John Donne

Jenny Lee puts artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon will curate Seamus Heaney's Human Chain – an exploration of Heaney’s final collection through music, poetry, film, discussion and dance at The Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy, this weekend

1. When did you think about poetry as a career and what were your first steps into it?

I began thinking about it as a career about six months ago and realised it was too late to go down that road. In other words, it's not a career. I started trying to write poems 50 years ago. I'm still trying.

2. Best gigs you've been to?

I’ve seen Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, and Jerry Lee Lewis – some of the people who invented rock 'n' roll. Favourites I've seen in the last year or two who are still on the road are Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and U2.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Leonard Cohen and his final touring band.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker?

5. And the book you’d take to a desert island?

Ovid’s Metamorphoses. There are enough stories in that book to keep a body entertained for a lifetime.

6. Top three films?

Ben Hur (1925), Ben Hur (1959) and Ben Hur (2016).

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

Bone Tomahawk. It's a horror western with a lot of cavemen cannibals. Horror is good. The western is good. Cavemen are good. Cannibalism can be good. Together? Bad. I suppose a chariot race could have saved it.

8. Favourite authors?

John Donne. The greatest single poet in the English language. He’s my go-to guy. The one I started learning from 50 years ago and from whom I’m still learning. Can you imagine what John Donne would make of the intercontinental ballistic missile?

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

I love any sport when it's played by people who are at the top of their game. I often go to the US Open on a Wednesday, say, of the last week. One's guaranteed to see something special.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

I don't take holidays but I love spending a day or two in Iceland en route to or from Europe. Whale watching, horse riding and lounging in the Blue Lagoon.

11. Pet hate?

I don't care for reality television in any of its manifestations, including Trump TV.

12. What's your favourite meal?

I really like the food at The Bushmills Inn, James Street South and Shu.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Being male, I'm not good with best friends. But several of my favourite people live in Belfast – Ciaran Carson, Michael Longley, Medbh McGuckian and Frank Ormsby. We know one another from Queen’s University. I hardly ever see them these days but I love them all.

14. Is there a God?

There sure is. We invented him, so he exists in our image.

:: To celebrate the first anniversary of Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Paul Muldoon curates Seamus Heaney's Human Chain, September 8-10. The programme will explore Heaney’s final collection through music, poetry, film, discussion and dance. Tickets from

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