Paul Muldoon was born in 1951 in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. He received his B.A. from Queen’s University in Belfast and was a radio and television producer with the BBC in Northern Ireland for 13 years. Since 1987, he has lived in the United States, where he is now Howard G.B. Clark Professor of the Humanities and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. In 1999 he was elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. Muldoon?s Griffin-shortlisted book of poetry, Moy sand and gravel, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in April, 2003. He is also the author of eight previous volumes of poetry, including New Weather (1973), Mules (1977), Why Brownlee Left (1980), Quoof (1983), Meeting the British (1987), Madoc: A Mystery (1990), The Annals of Chile (1984), and Hay (1998). Poems 1968-1998, published by FSG in 2001, is a collection of his eight volumes. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Muldoon received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in literature in 1996. Other recent awards include the 1994 T.S. Eliot Prize and the 1997 Irish Times Literature Prize for Poetry. Muldoon?s most recent collection, Horse Latitudes (2006) was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2007, Muldoon became poetry editor of the New Yorker.
Reading Paul Muldoon’s poetry is like looking through a kaleidoscope while he jiggles your elbow.
Reading Paul Muldoon’s poetry is like looking through a kaleidoscope while he jiggles your elbow. The complex rhyme-schemes, the repeated words and phrases, the refrains, the wonderful patterning unexpectedly dislocate this poet?s deep sense of place and shuttle the reader between order and chaos and back again. He reminds us that rhyme used with great resource does not restrain: rather, it is aleatory; it beckons the random and the risky. It is indeed a rich paradox that this most à la mode of poets takes us right back, again and again, to poetry?s ancient beginnings. As well as leading us a merry dance, he tells stories and sings cradlesongs and makes up nursery rhymes and riddles and says prayers. His elegies and love poems are among the finest of our times. With Mozartian grace and daring he renovates the traditional forms ? sestina, sonnet, haiku. In modernizing the time-honoured he keeps surprising himself and his readers.
by Paul Muldoon
That Boxing Day morning, I would hear the familiar, far-off gowls and
over Keenaghan and Aughanlig
of a pack of beagles, old dogs disinclined to chase a car suddenly quite
themselves, pups coming helter-skelter
across the plowlands with all the chutzpah of veterans
of the trenches, their slate-grays, cinnamons, liver-browns, lemons, rusts,
turning and twisting, unseen, across the fields,
their gowls and gulders turning and twisting after the twists and turns
of the great hare who had just now sauntered into the yard where I stodd
astride my new Raleigh cycle,
his demeanor somewhat louche, somewhat lackadaisical
under the circumstances, what with him standing on tiptoe
as if to mimic me, standing almost as tall as I, looking as if he might for a
himself in my place, thinking better of it, sloping off behind the lorry bed.
Copyright © Paul Muldoon, 2002
The selfsame, the siren
of icy waters, shrugging off as she does the Baltic
to hang out in our seas,
our inlets, the rivers
through which she climbs, bed-hugger, who keeps going against
the flow, from branch to branch, then
from capillary to snagged capillary,
farther and farther in, deeper and deeper into the heart
of the rock, straining
through mud runnels, till one day
a flash of light from the chestnut trees
sends a fizzle through a standing well,
through a drain that goes
by dips and darts from the Apennines to the Romagna —
the selfsame eel, a firebrand now, a scourge,
the arrow shaft of Love on earth
which only the gulches or dried-out
gullies of the Pyrenees might fetch and ferry back
to some green and pleasant spawning ground,
a green soul scouting and scanning
for life where only
drought and desolation have hitherto clamped down,
the spark announcing
that all sets forth when all that’s set forth
is a charred thing, a buried stump,
this short-lived rainbow, its twin met
in what’s set there between your eyelashes,
you who keep glowing as you do, undiminished, among the sons
of man, faces glistening with your slime, can’t you take in
her being your next-of-kin?
Copyright © 2002, Paul Muldoon, Moy Sand and Gravel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Eugenio Montale: The Eel
The lion stretched like a sandstone lion on a sandstone slab
of a bridge with one fixture, a gaslight,
looks up from his nicotine-worried forepaw
with the very same air my father, Patrick,
had when the results came back from the lab, that air of anguish-awe
that comes with the realization of just how slight
the chances are of anything doing the trick
as the sun goes down over Ballyknick and Ballymacnab
and a black-winged angel takes flight.
The black-winged angel leaning over the sandstone parapet
of the bridge wears a business suit, dark gray. His hair is slick with pomade.
He turns away as my mother, Brigid,
turned away from not only her sandstone pet
but any concession being made.
The black-winged angel sets her face to the unbending last ray
of evening and meets rigid with rigid
as the sun goes down over Lisnagat and Listamlet
and Clonmore and Clintyclay.
Feckless as he was feckless, as likely as her to be in a foofaraw,
I have it in me to absolutely rant and rail while, for fear of the backlash,
the idea of holding anything that might be construed as an opinion.
The lion still looks back to his raw
knuckle and sighs for the possibility that an ounce
of Walnut Plug might shape up from the ash
The angel still threatens to abandon us with a single flick of her pinion
as the sun goes down over Lislasly and Lissaraw
and Derrytrasna and Derrymacash.
Copyright © 2002
Absalom was riding his mule and the mule passed under the thick branches of a great oak. Absalom’s head got caught in the oak and he was left hanging between heaven and
earth, while the mule he was riding went on.
– II SAMUEL 18:9
I make my way alone through the hand-to-hand fighting
to A3 and A5. Red velvet. Brass and oak.
The special effects will include strobe lighting
and artificial smoke.
A glance to A5. Patrons are reminded, mar bheadh,
that the management accepts no responsibility in the case of theft.
Even as the twenty-five-piece orchestra
that’s masked offstage left
strikes up, there’s still a chance, I suppose, that the gainsayers
might themselves be gainsaid
as you rush, breathless, into my field of vision.
Understudies and standbys never substitute for listed players,
however, unless a specific announcement is made.
There will be no intermission.
Copyright © Paul Muldoon, 2002
The plowboy was something his something as I nibbled the lobe
of her right ear and something her blouse
for the Empire-blotchy globe
of her left breast on which there something a something louse.
Those something lice like something seed pearls
and her collar something with dandruff
as when Queen Elizabeth entertained the Earls
in her something something ruff.
I might have something the something groan
of the something plowboy who would with such something urge
the something horses, a something and a roan,
had it not been for the something splurge
of something like the hare
which even now managed to something itself from the something
Copyright © Paul Muldoon, 2002