Cover image for Poems, 1968-1998
Poems, 1968-1998
Muldoon, Paul.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Poems. Selections
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiii, 479 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6063.U367 A6 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Yet my eye is drawn once again,
Almost against its wishes,
To the figure in the shadows,
Willowy, and clean-shaven,
As if he simply wandered in
Between mending that fuse
And washing the breakfast dishes.
--from "The Bearded Woman, by Ribera"

Sven Birkerts has said, "It is not usual for a poet of Muldoon's years to have an oeuvre disclosing significant shifts and evolutions. But Muldoon, more than most, is an artist in high flight from self-repetition and the deadening business of living up to created expectations." The body of work in Poems 1968-1998 --a comprehensive gathering of Paul Muldoon's eight volumes---finds a great poet reinventing himself and recreating the business of poetry. The thirty-year effort of Muldoon's career thus far, is altogether like a fascinatingly mutable climate in which each freshening period brings---as his first collection was predictively titled---new weather.

Author Notes

Paul Muldoon was born in Northern Ireland in 1951. He lives with his wife, the novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz, & his two children in New Jersey, & teaches at Princeton University. In 1999 he was elected Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Carlos Fuentes claims the English language's luck consists of someone Irish coming along every generation or so and reinventing it. Muldoon--reared in Northern Ireland, long resident at Princeton, recently professor of poetry at Oxford--is today's reinventor. His language is heightened, experimental, and also utterly mundane, even coarse. His subjects match the language, what with trips on mescaline chockablock with bucolic landscapes. The luck of this collection is that it is long and dense enough to show the poet wrestling not only with craft--his intricate and often hidden rhymes show, right from the start, his obsession with form--but also with the reason for poetry in a technological age. In an early poem Muldoon describes meeting with a younger poet " rambling on / About pigs and trees, stars and horses" --this is Muldoon's own younger self come calling, challenging him to move beyond the conventional poetic subjects. The trees and stars never utterly disappear, though, but arrive in movies and French philosophy, pub crawls and Romantic poets, Irish language and Belfast murders, in a great swirl of fresh and durable language, as if they were bedrock revealed by a cataclysm. --Patricia Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

The best, most-honored Irish poet of the generation after Heaney, "the man who could rhyme knife with fork" (as another poet quipped), Muldoon finds his collected work seeing print a few months before his 50th birthday not bad for a farmer's son from Armagh. Though it includes no new poems, this big brick of a volume does make available several long-out-of-print early books, and it serves better than Muldoon's older selecteds to reveal the full range of his prodigious talents. There is the Frostian, anecdotal Muldoon of early work like "The Big House": "I was only the girl under the stairs/ But I was the first to notice something was wrong." There is the evasive, tough-guy Muldoon who wrote narrative poems, like "The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants," about terror and gangsters in his native Ulster. There is the brilliantly canny and understatedly moving family elegist. There is the Muldoon whose oeuvre includes all shades of romantic and erotic emotion, from sexual disgust ("Aisling") to long-married tenderness ("Long Finish"). There is the writer of serious, terse, effective political verse, the author of 100 haiku about suburban New Jersey, and the Muldoon who recreated the sonnet in his own image. And, most famously, there is the postmodern comic, who claims to be "my own stunt double," and who explains in another recent poem: "A bird in the hand is better than no bread./ To have your cake is to pay Paul." Muldoon (who now teaches at Princeton and Oxford) may yet expand his range even further; for now, the Muldoons are all here, in force and in bulk. Most readers of poetry will need to deal with them. (Apr.) Forecast: The eight or so separate Muldoon volumes on the shelves had the effect of putting off first-time readers, and making a diverse body of work seem diffuse. This collection corrects both problems, and makes Muldoon's first half-century a one-shot buy for libraries and consumers alike. If reviewers take this chance to sum up the career, this book could put Muldoon in Heaney's neighborhood. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One     THE ELECTRIC ORCHARD The early electric people had domesticated the wild ass. They knew all about falling off. Occasionally, they would have fallen out of the trees. Climbing again, they had something to prove To their neighbours. And they did have neighbours. The electric people lived in villages Out of their need of security and their constant hunger. Together they would divert their energies To neutral places. Anger to the banging door, Passion to the kiss. And electricity to earth. Having stolen his thunder From an angry god, through the trees They had learned to string his lightning. The women gathered random sparks into their aprons, A child discovered the swing Among the electric poles. Taking everything as given, The electric people were confident, hardly proud. They kept fire in a bucket, Boiled water and dry leaves in a kettle, watched the lid By the blue steam lifted and lifted. So that, where one of the electric people happened to fall, It was accepted as an occupational hazard. There was something necessary about the thing. The North Wall Of the Eiger was notorious for blizzards, If one fell there his neighbour might remark, Bloody fool. All that would have been inappropriate, Applied to the experienced climber of electric poles. I have achieved this great height? No electric person could have been that proud, Thirty or forty feet. Perhaps not that, If the fall happened to be broken by the roof of a shed. The belt would burst, the call be made, The ambulance arrive and carry the faller away To hospital with a scream. There and then the electric people might invent the railway, Just watching the lid lifted by the steam. Or decide that all laws should be based on that of gravity, Just thinking of the faller fallen. Even then they were running out of things to do and see. Gradually, they introduced legislation Whereby they nailed a plaque to every last electric pole. They would prosecute any trespassers. The high up, singing and live fruit liable to shock or kill Were forbidden. Deciding that their neighbours And their neighbours' innocent children ought to be stopped For their own good, they threw a fence Of barbed wire round the electric poles. None could describe Electrocution, falling, the age of innocence.     WIND AND TREE In the way that the most of the wind Happens where there are trees, Most of the world is centred About ourselves. Often where the wind has gathered The trees together and together, One tree will take Another in her arms and hold. Their branches that are grinding Madly together and together, It is no real fire. They are breaking each other. Often I think I should be like The single tree, going nowhere, Since my own arm could not and would not Break the other. Yet by my broken bones     I tell new weather.     BLOWING EGGS This is not the nest That has been pulling itself together In the hedge's intestine. It is the cup of a boy's hands, Whereby something is lost More than the necessary heat gone forever And death only after beginning. There is more to this pale blue flint In this careful fist Than a bird's nest having been discovered And a bird not sitting again. This is the start of the underhand, The way that he has crossed These four or five delicate fields of clover To hunker by this crooked railing. This is the breathless and the intent Puncturing of the waste And isolate egg and this the clean delivery Of little yolk and albumen. These his wrists, surprised and stained.     THRUSH I guessed the letter Must be yours. I recognized The cuttle ink, The serif on The P. I read the postmark and the date, Impatience held By a paperweight. I took your letter at eleven To the garden With my tea. And suddenly the yellow gum secreted Halfwayup The damson bush Had grown a shell. I let those scentless pages fall And took it In my feckless hand. I turned it over On its back To watch your mouth Withdraw. Making a lean white fist Out of my freckled hand.     THE GLAD EYE Bored by Ascham and Zeno In private conversation on the longbow, (Continues...) Excerpted from POEMS 1968-1998 by Paul Muldoon. Copyright © 2001 by Paul Muldoon. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.