Ian Duhig Author & Poet Interview

bookblast diary ian duhig interview

Book Blast interview with author & poet Ian Duhig

Ian Duhig, where were you born, and where did you grow up? 
London, the eighth of my parents but the first not born in Ireland, so I grew up in the London-Irish community of Paddington.

What sorts of books were in your family home?
Not many books but my mother knew a lot of poetry by heart as that’s how they learned it in Ireland in her youth; this with all her songs were very important to me.

Who were early formative influences as a writer?
I liked poetry at school but when I worked in Belfast in a hostel for young offenders before the Good Friday Agreement, discovering the Northern Irish poets like Heaney, Longley, Mahon, Muldoon, McGuckiand and more recently Sinead Morrissey was electrifying.

Do you write every day, and do you write many drafts?
I write every day and often many drafts but I know that is no guarantee I will end up with a worthwhile poem while sometimes they come fairly easily. This is particularly infuriating but I’ve leaned to live with it.

As an author, what are you most proud (or embarrassed) of writing? 
The Lammas Hireling seems popular, even among the poor kids at school who have to study for their exams so that makes me happy. There isn’t enough room here to list all my poems that embarrass me now.

Books that changed your life?
Laurence Stern’s Tristram Shandy, Joyce’s Ulysses, Poets from the North of Ireland ed. Frank Ormsby, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and many more.

Your views on book publishing?
Changing too fast for me to keep up with: I feel there are opportunities for poets in places like Leeds where I live, described as a former editor of Granta as “completely outside the literary universe.”

How important were, and are, editors?
Have you had much encouragement from your editor(s)? My editor is Don Paterson who is a great editor because he’s a great poet and his encouragement has been important because I respect his judgement. Good editors are very rare nowadays because it is so time-consuming.

Which is more important, style or voice?
I think you should be able to change these as suits the tactics of your book: look at what Joyce does in Ulysses.

Your views on the explosion of creative writing courses? How helpful are they in reality?
They were helpful to me and those I run now seem to go down well but I always stress that there is no guarantee of publication and success and the pleasures of poetry should not be chained to that.

What are your favorite literary journals?
Modern Poetry in Translation, Poetry London then the general ones.

How well are your books received in Europe?
With little interest.

Your views on how new technology has (or has not) changed your writing life?
What about social media? All very helpful to poets, I think and I use them all regularly. There are lots of academics on Twitter and funders advertise there too so that’s important.

If you could go anywhere in time for one day, where would you go and why?
Florence, the Renaissance.

Your favourite prose authors?
Sterne, Joyce, Beckett.                

Your favourite noir series?
The Bridge.

Five favourite bands?
The Clerks, The Pogues, Musica Reservata, Ceoltóirí Chualann and The Drones.     

Your chief characteristic?

Your bedside reading?
I don’t read in bed.            

Your motto?
If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

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About Georgia de Chamberet 377 Articles
Bilingual editor, rewriter, anthologist, French-to-English translator. Has written for 3am magazine, words without borders, The Independent, The Lady, Banipal, Prospect Magazine, Times Literary Supplement. Currently writes for The BookBlast Diary. Founder (1997) of London-based writing agency BookBlast.