Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Intro: Paul Muldoon

The Mixed Marriage,” in his second collection, Mules (London and Winston-Salem, NC, 1977), concerns the opposed educational and class backgrounds of his parents: his mother’s cosmopolitan literariness and his father’s rural knowledge and Republican sympathies. His poetry, which frequently returns to his parents (particularly his father), itself conducts mixed marriages of various kinds. It brings his own family and rural background into a strangely dislocating relationship with an astonishing range of sophisticated literary, historical, and cultural allusion; it crosses contemporary Irish experience with Amerindian Trickster mythology; it joins early Irish legend to the thrillers of Raymond Chandler; it performs some radical formal experiments with that most traditional of poetic means, the sonnet. Wily and mischievous, these conjunctions are energetic displays of a subtle, learned, and ironic intelligence, placing the reader in a constant state of interpretative alertness and insecurity. In his influential longer poems, such as “Immram” in Why Brownlee Left (London and Winston-Salem, NC, 1980) and “The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants” in Quoof (London and Winston-Salem, 1983), he employs oblique, intermittent narratives of conspiracy, quest, and pursuit whose slippery air of giving nothing away, at once cajoling and unaccommodating, gracefully testifies to that most bedrock marriage of all in his work: that of a Northern Irish Catholic sensibility and the English poetic tradition.
from The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry in English. Ed. Ian Hamilton. Oxford: Oxford UP. Copyright © Oxford UP.
Forty years in the wilderness
of Antrim and Fermanagh
where the rime would deliquesce
like tamarisk-borne manna

and the small-shot of hail
was de-somethinged. Defrosted.
This is to say nothing of the flocks of quail
now completely exhausted

from having so long entertained an
inordinately soft spot for the hard man
like Redmond O'Hanlon or Roaring Hanna

who delivers himself up only under duress
after forty years in the wilderness
of Antrim and Fermanagh.

From accessed 6/10/08.
In September 2007, [Muldoon] was hired as poetry editor of The New Yorker.
Muldoon has contributed the librettos for four operas by Daron Hagen: Shining Brow (1992), Vera of Las Vegas (1996), Bandanna (1998), and The Antient Concert (2005). His interests have not only included libretto, but the rock lyric as well, penning lines for the Handsome Family as well as the late Warren Zevon whose titular track "My Ride's Here" belongs to a Muldoon collaboration. Muldoon also writes lyrics for (and plays "rudimentary rhythm" guitar in) his own Princeton-based rock band, Rackett.
From accessed 6/10/08.
PAUL MULDOON is primarily the lyric writer for RACKETT, though he seems more and more to be getting the hang of a reissue 1952 butterscotch Telecaster.
From accessed 6/10/08.
Muldoon has written more than ten smaller volumes of poetry, has edited more than ten poetry anthologies and has won nearly ten major literary awards.
From accessed 6/10/08.


by Paul Muldoon

As naught gives way to aught
and oxhide gives way to chain mail
and byrnie gives way to battle-ax
and Cavalier gives way to Roundhead
and Cromwell Road gives way to the Connaught
and I Am Curious (Yellow) gives way to I Am Curious (Blue)
and barrelhouse gives way to Frank’N’Stein
and a pint of Shelley plain to a pint of India Pale Ale
I give way to you.

As bass gives way to baritone
and hammock gives way to hummock
and Hoboken gives way to Hackensack
and bread gives way to reed bed
and bald eagle gives way to Theobald Wolfe Tone
and the Undertones give way to Siouxsie Sioux
and DeLorean, John, gives way to Deloria, Vine,
and Pierced Nose to Big Stomach
I give way to you.

As vent gives way to Ventry
and the King of the World gives way to Finn MacCool
and phone gives way to fax
and send gives way to sned
and Dagenham gives way to Coventry
and Covenanter gives way to caribou
and the caribou gives way to the carbine
and Boulud’s cackamamie to the cock-a-leekie of Boole
I give way to you.

As transhumance gives way to trance
and shaman gives way to Santa
and butcher’s string gives way to vacuum pack
and the ineffable gives way to the unsaid
and pyx gives way to monstrance
and treasure aisle gives way to need-blind pew
and Calvin gives way to Calvin Klein
and Town and Country Mice to Hanta
I give way to you.

As Hopi gives way to Navaho
and rug gives way to rag
and Pax Vobiscum gives way to Tampax
and Tampa gives way to the water bed
and The Water Babies gives way to Worstward Ho
and crapper gives way to loo
and spruce gives way to pine
and the carpet of pine needles to the carpetbag
I give way to you.

As gombeen-man gives way to not-for-profit
and soft soap gives way to Lynn C. Doyle
and tick gives way to tack
and Balaam’s Ass gives way to Mister Ed
and Songs of Innocence gives way to The Prophet
and single-prop Bar-B-Q gives way to twin-screw
and the Salt Lick gives way to the County Line
and “Mending Wall” gives way to “Build Soil”
I give way to you.

As your hummus gives way to your foul madams
and your coy mistress gives way to “The Flea”
and flax gives way to W. D. Flackes
and the living give way to the dead
and John Hume gives way to Gerry Adams
and Television gives way to U2
and Lake Constance gives way to the Rhine
and the Rhine to the Zuider Zee
I give way to you.

As dutch treat gives way to french leave
and spanish fly gives way to Viagra
and slick gives way to slack
and the local fuzz give way to the Feds
and Machiavelli gives way to make-believe
and Howards End gives way to A Room with a View
and Wordsworth gives way to “Woodbine
Willie” and stereo Nagra to quad Niagara
I give way to you.

As cathedral gives way to cavern
and cookie cutter gives way to cookie
and the rookies give way to the All-Blacks
and the shad give way to the smoke shed
and the roughshod give way to the Black Horse avern
that still rings true
despite that T being missing from its sign
where a little nook gives way to a little nookie
when I give way to you.

That Nanook of the North should give way to Man of Aran
as ling gives way to cod
and cod gives way to kayak
and Camp Moosilauke gives way to Club Med
and catamite gives way to catamaran
and catamaran to aluminum canoe
is symptomatic of a more general decline
whereby a cloud succumbs to a clod
and I give way to you.
For as Monet gives way to Juan Gris
and Juan Gris gives way to Joan Miró
and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer gives way to Miramax
and the Volta gives way to Travolta, swinging the red-hot lead,
and Saturday Night Fever gives way to Grease
and the Greeks give way to you know who
and the Roman IX gives way to the Arabic 9
and nine gives way, as ever, to zero
I give way to you.
From accessed 6/10/08


by Paul Muldoon

Small wonder
he’s not been sighted all winter;
this old brock’s
been to Normandy and back

through the tunnels and trenches
of his subconscious.
I 1 is father fell victim
to mustard-gas at the Somme;

one of his sons lost a paw
to a gin-trap at Lisbellaw:
another drills
on the Antrim hills’
still-molten lava
in a moth-eaten Balaclava.
An elaborate
system of foxholes and duckboards

leads to the terminal moraine
of an ex-linen baron’s
where he’s part-time groundsman.
I would find it somewhat infra dig
to dismiss him simply as a pig
or heed Gerald of Wales’
tall tales

of badgers keeping badger-slaves.
For when he shuffles
across the esker
I glimpse my grandfather’s whiskers
stained with tobacco-pollen.
When he piddles against a bullaun
I know he carries bovine TB
but what I see

is my father in his Sunday suit’s
bespoke lime and lignite,
patrolling his now-diminished estate
and taking stock of this and that.
From accessed 6/10/08.
About Horse Latitudes, Muldoon's tenth collection of poetry:
No poet is as wicked, as stylish or as fun. (Richard Sanger, Toronto Star)
Muldoon's wit and wordplay can be seen as that, a mask. Is he really serious? Yes indeed, but readers will keep asking the question, as they still do of Jonathan Swift and James Joyce. (Langdon Hammer, New York Times Book Review)
Horse Latitudes is, as we would expect, a brilliant performance; it also offers us an unusually direct insight into some of the passions with which this supposedly detached and manipulative poet burns. (Fran Brearton, Tower Poetry)
Muldoon, whose penchant for weird rhymes, startling juxtapositions and occasional mystification is on full display here, is widely regarded as "difficult", even perverse. Yet Horse Latitudes is the volume I would give to introduce someone to his work. (Gregory Feeley, Philadelphia Inquirer)
When Muldoon is at his best he is one of the most exhilarating of all living poets. (Brian Phillips, Poetry)
This is Muldoon's tenth collection of poems and, as usual, an event. (James Fenton, The Guardian)
Paul Muldoon's Horse Latitudes contains some of his best work, including a wonderful long poem, 'The Old Country', in which every Irish cliché ever heard is both sent up and made magical. (Colm Toibin, Observer Books of the Year)
The most haunting poetry I read this year was in
Horse Latitudes, where Paul Muldoon is as often elegiac as playful, but in either mood an artist of consummate judgement. (Roy Foster, TLS Books of the Year)

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