Now in his 80th year, Michael Longley is one of our greatest poets, and this week's edition of the Poetry Programme presented the first half of an extended interview recorded at his home in Belfast.

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Listen: Michael Longley talks to The Poetry Programme

Born in Belfast in 1939, Michael Longley was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. After reading classics at Trinity College, Dublin, he taught in schools in Belfast, Dublin and London. He joined the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1970, working in literature and the traditional arts as Combined Arts Director before taking early retirement from the post in 1991.

Michael Longley

His poetry collections have received many awards, including the Whitbread Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and the Hawthornden Prize. He has received the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, was appointed a CBE, and was the Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2007 to 2010.

As Sunday 11th November 2018 marked the centenary of Armistice Day, the interview opens, appropriately, with Michael recalling his father’s experience of World War 1. Listen to a preview below: 

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Later in the programme, he talks about Carrigskeewaun in Mayo, a place he and his wife, Edna, have been visiting for many years. It has inspired many poems, and he reads one that welcomes his grandson on his first visit there. The programme ends with a track by Duke Special of a musical setting of one of Michael’s best known poems about the Troubles, The Ice Cream Man.

The Poetry Programme, RTÉ Radio 1, Sundays at 7.30pm - the programme will be available to listen back to after broadcast via the Poetry Programme website and on the RTÉ radio player.