Paul Muldoon: Wikis


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Paul Muldoon (born 20 June 1951) is a post-modern poet [1] from County Armagh, Northern Ireland as well as an educator and academic at Princeton University. He has published over thirty collections and won both a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the T. S. Eliot Prize. He held the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1999 - 2004 and is currently the president of the Poetry Society (U.K.) and Poetry Editor at The New Yorker.



Paul Muldoon was born on a farm outside Moy, near Portadown, County Armagh. The family was Catholic in this largely Protestant area of Northern Ireland, and he was the eldest of three children. His father worked as a farmer among many other jobs, his mother was a school-mistress. In 2001, he said of the Moy ""It's a beautiful part of the world. It's still the place that's 'burned into the retina', and although I haven't been back there since I left for university 30 years ago, it's the place I consider to be my home." [2] In interview, he recalls, "We were a fairly non-political household; my parents were nationalists, of course, but it was not something, as I recall, that was a major area of discussion. But there were patrols; an army presence; movements of troops; a sectarian divide. And that particular area was a nationalist enclave, while next door was the parish where the Orange Order was founded; we'd hear the drums on summer evenings. But I think my mother, in particular, may have tried to shelter us from it all. Besides, we didn't really socialise a great deal. We were 'blow-ins' - arrivistes - new to the area, and didn't have a lot of connections." Talking of his home life, he continues "I'm astonished to think that, apart from some Catholic Truth Society pamphlets, some books on saints, there were, essentially, no books in the house, except one set, the Junior World Encyclopaedia, which I certainly read again and again. People would say, I suppose, that it might account for my interest in a wide range of arcane bits of information. At some level, I was self-educated." He was a '"Troubles poet" from the beginning. [2] Poems such as Anseo and Gathering Mushrooms reflect his experiences.

In 1969, he read English at Queen's University Belfast, where he met Seamus Heaney and became close to the Belfast Group of poets which at various times involved writers such as Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian and Frank Ormsby. Muldoon said of the experience "I think it was fairly significant, certainly to me. It was exciting. But then I was 19, 20 years old, and at university, so everything was exciting, really." He essentially let go of his studies at Queens. He recalls "I had stopped. Really, I should have dropped out. I'd basically lost interest halfway through. Not because there weren't great people teaching me, but I'd stopped going to lectures, and rather than doing the decent thing, I just hung around".[2] During his time at Queens, his first collection New Weather was published by Faber and Faber. He met his first wife, fellow student Anne-Marie Conway, and they were married on graduation in 1973, the year after Bloody Sunday. The marriage broke up 1977.

For thirteen years (1973-86), Muldoon worked as a arts producer for BBC arts in Belfast, (including the most bitter period of the Troubles). During this time he published the collections Why Brownlee Left (1980) and Quoof (1983). After leaving the BBC he taught English and creative writing at Caius College, Cambridge, and the University of East Anglia where he taught such writers as Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) and Giles Foden (Last King of Scotland). In 1987, he left for America, and teaches creative writing program at Princeton. He held the chair of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University for the five-year term 1999–2004, and is an Honorary Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford University. [2]

Muldoon is now married to novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz, whom he met at an Arvon writing course. He has two children - Dorothy and Asher - and lives in Griggstown, New Jersey. [3] [2]

Poetry and other works

His poetry is known for his difficult, sly, allusive style, casual use of obscure or archaic words, understated wit, punning, and deft technique in meter and slant rhyme. [4] As Peter Davidson says in the New York Times review of books "Muldoon takes some honest-to-God reading. He's a riddler, enigmatic, distrustful of appearances, generous in allusion, doubtless a dab hand at crossword puzzles". [5] The Guardian cites him as "among the few significant poets of our half-century"; "the most significant English-language poet born since the second world war" - a talent off the map. [2] (Notably, Seamus Heaney was born in 1939). Muldoon's work is often compared with Heaney, a fellow Northern Irish poet, friend and mentor to Muldoon. Heaney, who won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, is better known, sells widely and has enjoyed more popular success. Muldoon is more of 'the poet's poet', whose work is frequently too involved and opaque for a more casual readership. However, Muldoon's reputation as a serious poet was confirmed in 2003 with his winning of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He has been awarded fellowships in the Royal Society of Literature and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the 1994 T. S. Eliot Prize; the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, and the 2003 Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry. Muldoon’s poems have been collected into three books, Selected Poems 1968-1986 (1986), New Selected Poems: 1968-1994 (1996), and Poems 1968-1998 (2001). In September 2007 he was hired as poetry editor of The New Yorker and is president of the British Poetry Society (UK).

Most of Muldoon's collections contain shorter poems with an inclusion of a long concluding poem. As Muldoon produced more collections the long poems gradually took up more space in the volume, until in 1990 the poem Madoc: A Mystery took over the volume of that name, leaving only seven short poems to appear before it. Muldoon has not since published a poem of comparable length, but a new trend is emerging whereby more than one long poem appears in a volume.

Madoc: A Mystery, exploring themes of colonisation, is among Muldoon's most difficult works. It includes, as 'poetry', such non-literary constructions as maps and geometric diagrams. In the book Irish Poetry since 1950, John Goodby states it is "by common consent, the most complex poem in modern Irish literature [...] - a massively ambitious, a historiographical metafiction". [6]The post-modern poem narrates, in 233 sections (the same number as the number of American Indian tribes), an alternative history in which Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey come to America in order to found a utopian community. The two poets had, in reality, discussed but never undertaken this journey. Muldoon's poem is inspired Southey's work Madoc, about a legendary Welsh prince of that name. Critics are divided over the poem's success. Some are stunned by its scope [2] [7] and many others, such as John Banville, have professed themselves utterly baffled by it - feeling it to be wilfully obscure.[8] Muldoon says of it: "I quite enjoy having fun. It's part of how it is, and who we are." [2]

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 band 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. [9]

Muldoon has also edited a number of anthologies, written two children's books, translated the work of other authors, and published critical prose.


Muldoon has won the following major poetry awards:[10]

Selected Honors

Muldoon poetry collections

  • Knowing My Place (1971)
  • New Weather (1973)
  • Spirit of Dawn (1975)
  • Mules (1977)
  • Names and Addresses (1978)
  • Immram (1980)
  • The O-O's Party, New Year's Eve (1980)
  • Why Brownlee Left (1980)
  • Out of Siberia (1982)
  • Quoof (1983)
  • The Wishbone (1984)
  • Paul Muldoon: Selected Poems 1968-1983 (1986)
  • Meeting the British (1987)
  • Madoc: A Mystery (1990)
  • The Annals of Chile (1994)
  • The Prince of the Quotidian (1994)
  • Six Honest Serving Men (1995)
  • Kerry Slides (with photographs by Bill Doyle) (1996)
  • New Selected Poems: 1968-1994 (1996)
  • Hopewell Haiku (1997)
  • Hay (1998)
  • Poems 1968-1998 (2001)
  • Moy Sand and Gravel (2002) (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
  • Medley for Morin Khur (2005)
  • Sixty Instant Messages to Tom Moore (2005)
  • Horse Latitudes (2006) (shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize)
  • General Admission (2006)
  • When the Pie was Opened (2008)
  • Plan B (2009)
  • Maggot (2010)

Other Muldoon selected works

  • The Scrake of Dawn: Poems by Young People from Northern Ireland ed.(1979)
  • The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry ed. (1986)
  • The Faber Book of Beasts ed. (1997)
  • The Oxford and Cambridge May Anthologies 2000: Poetry ed. (2000)
  • The Best American Poetry 2005 (ed. with David Lehman) (2005)
  • The Last Thesaurus (illustrated) (1996)
  • The Noctuary of Narcissus Batt (Illustrated) (1997)
  • The Astrakhan Cloak (translated into English the work written by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill in Irish language) (1992)
  • The Birds / adaptation after Aristophanes (1999)
  • The End of the Poem: 'All Souls Night' by WB Yeats (lecture) (2000)
  • To Ireland, I (Oxford Clarendon Lectures of 1998) (2000)
  • The End of the Poem: Oxford Lectures in Poetry (2006)

See also


  1. ^ Darkness at Muldoon New York Times review October 13, 2002 accessed 2010-02-27
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Guardian Profile The poet at play 12 May 2001 Accessed 2010-02-27
  3. ^ "Making history in Griggstown", Princeton Packet, 27 November 2007. Accessed 23 December 2007
  4. ^ Wills, Clair (1998). Reading Paul Muldoon. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books. ISBN 1852243481. 
  5. ^ Darkness at Muldoon New York Times review October 13, 2002 accessed 2010-02-27
  6. ^ For an extended discussion of the poem see: Goodby, John (2000) Irish poetry since 1950: from stillness into history Manchester University Press p. 296
  7. ^ Poetry Foundation biog
  8. ^ "Madoc by Paul Muldoon". Retrieved 2009-05-27. "I cannot help feeling that this time (Muldoon) has gone too far -- so far, at least, that I can hardly make him out at all, off there in the distance, dancing by himself." 
  9. ^ Val Nolan, ‘Lets go make some noise!’, The Stinging Fly, Volume 2, Issue 8 (Dublin: Winter 2007/08), pp. 11-13; Feature on Paul Muldoon’s band Rackett, specifically their concert at the Róisín Dubh, Galway, during their 2007 Irish tour.
  10. ^ From Paul Muldoon at Contemporary Writers

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Paul Muldoon (born 1951-06-20) is a Northern Irish poet, literary critic and academic who has lived in the USA for the past twenty years. In 2003 his collection Moy Sand and Gravel won a Pulitzer Prize.


  • Words want to find chimes with each other, things want to connect.
    • Interviewed in Thumbscrew, Spring 1996. [1]
  • The point of poetry is to be acutely discomforting, to prod and provoke, to poke us in the eye, to punch us in the nose, to knock us off our feet, to take our breath away.
    • Princeton University Library Chronicle, Spring 1998.
  • If the poem has no obvious destination, there's a chance that we'll be all setting off on an interesting ride.
    • Harper's, September 1999.
  • Form is a straitjacket in the way that a straitjacket was a straitjacket for Houdini.

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