The following interview of Michael Hulse by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).
Biographical Information—Michael Hulse
Described by Gwyneth Lewis as “a formidable poet,” Michael Hulse is a key figure in contemporary poetry. His audience for his solo appearance at Adelaide Writers’ Week 2012 numbered 700, and his new collection of poems, Half-Life, was chosen as a Book of the Year by John Kinsella. His poetry has won him first prize in the UK’s National Poetry Competition and Eric Gregory and Cholmondeley Awards from the Society of Authors, and he is the only poet to have won the Bridport Poetry Competition twice. Reading tours have taken him to Canada, the US and Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, India, and several European countries, and his work has been praised by Robert Gray, C. K. Stead, Sean O’Brien, Simon Armitage, the late Peter Porter, and many others.
He has edited the literary quarterlies Stand, Leviathan Quarterly and (currently) The Warwick Review; co-edited the Bloodaxe anthology, The New Poetry and The 20th Century in Poetry, the best-selling anthology of twentieth-century poetry of the English-speaking world co-edited with Simon Rae (Ebury Press, 2011; Pegasus Press, 2012), described by The Guardian as “magnificent”; and in the Nineties was general editor of the Könemann literature classics series and of Arc international poets. He has translated more than sixty books from the German, among them works by Goethe, Rilke, Jakob Wassermann, Alfred Andersch, and Nobel Prize winners Elfriede Jelinek and Herta Müller. His translations of The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn and Vertigo by W. G. Sebald brought him plaudits from Susan Sontag, A. S. Byatt, and many more, and were shortlisted for every translation prize – The Rings of Saturn won the Los Angeles Times Book Award.
Michael Hulse is a permanent judge of the Günter Grass Foundation’s biennial international literary award, the Albatross Prize, and co-founder of the international Hippocrates initiative for poetry and medicine, for which he shared a Times Higher Education Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts in 2011. With Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee and US novelist Susanna Moore, he is a consultant to Adelaide Writers’ Week. He teaches at Warwick University.
Swiss National Day in Lavigny
for Sophie and Tatiana Kandaouroff and Jens-Martin Eriksen
Cities burn, favelas rot, the starving walk for water,
elections are rigged and revolutions hijacked,
tanks are deployed against the people—but
here the children walk with lanterns
along the lane between the grocery and the château,
they babble past the church, they know the life to come
is this moment, this one, this one, and this,
here—catch! They are the life to come
as they prattle and scatter across the darkening field.
The language of the speeches says “audacity”
and “tolerance” and “solidarity”
but while the parents clap and blab
the children are inheriting as the birds inherit.
They are not bankers, vintners, civil servants; they
do not spin or toil; they skelter and skirl
in polities not of the world
that their parents inhabit with their grown-up words and ways.
How hard we have striven, all of us, all these years,
millennia, to make the happy place:
for that is the end of all we
think and all we do—a village much like this, where a bonfire
burns, but neither books nor men. Is this the good life
that makes heaven pointless? This still remains:
to become as little children
skittering fast and light in the peace of the night.
—Published in The Kenyon Review