Here are some excerpts from an interview I did with Paul Muldoon a couple of years ago, which focused on dictionaries and etymology.
A full .pdf version of the interview can be downloaded here:
PM: I’ve never really been into the OED Online. Maybe I should. I think I might even have a link to it. But I haven’t used it once. It’s the physicality of the book that I like. It’s a matter of pages I suppose. I like poking about through a dictionary. Having gone to look up a particular word, then I look at this other word, then I look at all these other words on the page and I think, “my God,” you know? I realize I know nothing whatsoever about the English language.
PM: An image I’ve become quite impressed with, as I’ve watched the new World Trade building rising, is of its being built by a crane within its own structure, which will disappear when it’s built. And it’s probably not a fair analogy, but it’s something like that. There are ways in which these things get made that are more useful in just getting them up there, or out there, than anything else. And a lot of these poems, it wouldn’t be clear even to me the principles on which they were constructed. A lot of them were like wedge-like things, they sometimes go in a few directions at once.
PM: … there may be something under the surface connecting this word and that word over there, in terms of the vertical aspect of language as much as the horizontal. I’m sure that it has to do with root systems and connections that are not necessarily obvious but allow things to flourish in the natural world. Because there are connections that are not necessarily visible. I was up here this morning where they’re working on the new Tube station. They’ve build a system sending cement out while they’re excavating so that it underpins the other buildings around the site, which might otherwise collapse. So there’s that kind of unseen connection between things, just as there’s an unseen structure that’s being set up in this building up the street here, that’s going to hold it up. And I think sometimes those connections may be in the language.
There’s plenty more in the full interview on the OED and other dictionaries, the English and Irish languages, words and their histories (credible and not), and how poetry works (or doesn’t) with all these things. And it ends with a joke.
The interview (as with everything on this site) is published here under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which means it can be distributed in whole or in part, but otherwise unmodified, with attribution and a link back to the original.