The Ireland Chair of Poetry is a solemn, formal, academic institution. The poets who hold it, however, tend to be anything but. Gather the three most recent Ireland Professors of Poetry around a table for a conversation – the incumbent, Paula Meehan; her predecessor, Harry Clifton; and the 2007-2010 chair holder, Michael Longley – and you’ll find yourself dancing across an anarchic range of topics punctuated by recitations, jokes, snatches of song, back-and-forth banter and moments of sudden, striking profundity.
The occasion for this gathering at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin is the publication of the first book in a new series called The Poet’s Chair. The slim hardback, One Wide Expanse, has been beautifully produced by UCD Press and contains Longley’s three formal lectures. It will be followed, later this year and early in 2016, by those of Clifton and Meehan.