- 07 Aug 19
Who would be the last person you would invite to your birthday party?
That would be the last person who said to me “Do you know who I am?” or “I bet you don’t remember me.” The rudest thing one person can say to another.
Who would be the first person you would invite to your birthday party?
Either of my children. It’s boring, of course, but they have much more interesting things to say than almost anyone else I know. They’re 27 and 20 now, so they’re not only funny but funny in adult ways. They have a zany sense of humour that is, I suspect, hereditary.
“That’s the way, now.” My wife and I lived in Dingle for a while and we used to go into John Sheehy’s pub. Maud Sheehy would often say, apropos of everything and nothing, “That’s the way, now.”
For today’s purposes, let’s say it’s Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker. The thing about Leonard is that he’s so good, so consistently, right up to the end.
For today’s purposes, it’s The Collected Poems Of WB Yeats. I’m teaching at the Yeats Summer School in Sligo this year and have been boning up on him yet again. The thing about WB is that he’s so good, so consistently, right up to the end.
For today’s purposes, let’s say it’s Ben Hur. In fact, most days it’s Ben Hur. But it might also be anything by the Coens. I love that sign for the ice cream store somewhere near O’Connell Street in Dublin that reads “The Cone Brothers”.
James Joyce. I’m pretty sure that if Joyce were writing Ulysses just now he’d connect “The Cone Brothers” and Vico.
Favourite actor / actress?
Among the locals, I love Gabriel Byrne, Lisa Dwan, Aidan Gillen, and Stephen Rea. And I have to put in a special word for Stanley Townsend. Stanley is playing a version of myself in a staged adaptation of my poem, Incantata, which is at the Gate in September.
For today’s purposes, it’ll be the combination of Glen Hansard, Martin Hayes and Lisa Lambe, who’ll be singing and playing together on Rock ’n’ Roll Royalty, our finale at the Gate on August 4. But this past week alone I went to concerts by the Stones, Blondie and Elvis Costello. They’re all pretty spectacular, right?
Most embarrassing moment of your life?
For today’s purposes, it’ll be driving the wrong way up Broadway a couple of nights ago. I had come back from seeing the Stones in Philadelphia and was completely out of it. The police were on me immediately. I got two summonses for it. Hmm.
That would have to be kombucha. I live on that stuff and I’m glad to see that, in Ireland, everybody and their mother has a kombucha factory.
For today’s purposes, it’s The Undoing, a limited series based on You Should Have Known, a novel by my wife, Jean Hanff Korelitz. It’ll be showing in the spring of 2020 and stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant.
Favourite item of clothing?
My favourite item of clothing is an Etro blazer I bought in a charity sale. On a practical level, any pair of trousers with an expandable waist. Marks and Spencer make really great ones.
Most desirable date?
My wife. Boring, I know, but there you have it.
Favourite method of relaxation?
Painting in oils.
If you weren’t pursuing your present career, what other career might you have chosen?
Painter. I would have loved to have been a visual artist. But being a poet comes close.
Having my new pamphlet, Binge, accepted by Lifeboat Publications in Belfast. It felt as good as when Ulsterman Publications published my first pamphlet, Knowing My Place, in 1971. Binge will be launched in Belfast on September 3.
I try not to think in terms of disappointment because I’ve had a charmed life. I suppose the closest thing to disappointment would be the sense that I really should have been more attentive to my own parents. I should have hung out with them more.
Your concept of heaven?
Your concept of hell?
What would be your dying words?
“That’s the way, now.” And, the way I’m driving, I think I might be using them soon.
My greatest ambition is what it was 50 years ago, when I started out in the poetry business, and it’s to write one really good poem before I hop the twig. I’m ever hopeful, though I can see that it’s getting less and less likely.
Period of history you’d most like to have lived in and why?
This time is just fine. I don’t sigh for other eras. Unless it would have been as a charioteer in Rome. The galley slave years I could do without.
If you weren’t a human being which animal would you have chosen to be?
A chariot horse.
If you were told that the world was ending tomorrow morning, how would you react/what would you do?
We’ve already been told that. We know something the Romans didn’t — that the planet will be consumed by the sun. There’s nothing we can do about that. But we can, in the shorter term, do something about honouring the planet that sustains us. Stop using plastic, for starters.
Your nominee for the world’s best-dressed person?
Favourite term of abuse?
“I know I should know you but I’ve actually no idea who you are” or “Ramming speed” or “Fuck you, squire.”
My biggest long term fear is that my children, and their friends, will suffer because of our neglect of the planet. In the shorter term I’m concerned that the “peace process” in Northern Ireland has been badly served by those meant to see it through and is about to founder.
Humanity’s most useful invention?
Humanity’s most useless invention?
The handbag. I’m frustrated to see people hoking through their handbags for tweezers or tissues or whatever and coming up empty-handed. The handbag needs to be rethought. I’m working on it in my spare time.
• Paul brings Muldoon’s Picnic (an evening of poetry, prose and music) to Hawkswell Theatre, Sligo on August 2; the Gate Theatre, Dublin (4); Everyman Theatre, Cork (5); Glór, Ennis (7); The Dock, Carrick (9); and The MAC, Belfast (11).