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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

The Prince of the Quotidian

Paul Muldoon

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To purchase The Prince of the Quotidian

Title: The Prince of the Quotidian
Author: Paul Muldoon
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1994
Length: 41 pages
Availability: The Prince of the Quotidian
The Prince of the Quotidian - UK

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nice small collection of poems

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Georgia Review . Winter/1995 Judith Kitchen
The LA Times . 11/12/1994 Katherine McNamara
TLS . 7/10/1994 Lawrence Norfolk
World Lit. Today . Winter/1996 Kieran Quinlan

  From the Reviews:
  • "(I)f you like the meta-inter-textual thing (with an Irish twist), Muldoon is "your man". If not, not." - Kieran Quinlan, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Prince of the Quotidian is a small collection of 31 short poems, practically all personal and autobiographical, describing Muldoon's everyday life. The focus is his move to Princeton, as he describes the journey there and small scenes from life afterwards. Muldoon being Muldoon life generally isn't "everyday" but rather, of course, "quotidian".
       Personal references abound (the first line in the book is: "After breakfast with Belinda and Philip Haas" .....), as do the Irish references. To those not in the know these present some difficulties, though some readers might enjoy the air of inaccessibility about these poems. Much, however, is straightforward, from travel- to domestic scenes.
       One gets a good sense of Muldoon's adventure, and his willingness to embrace the new in these poems. He has a generally cheery outlook that leads to such unlikely admissions as:

The more I think of it, the more I've come to love
the tidal marshes of Hackensack,
the planes stacked
over Newark, even the smell of cloves

and chloroform
that sweetens Elizabeth.
       He pokes fun at his own romanticizing as well: "The moon hangs over the Poconos / like a madeleine."
       Muldoon writes well and easily, and these short pieces flow together nicely. There are small gems throughout. At an event with Princeton's "heavy hitters" Muldoon writes:
I insert myself like an ampersand
between Joyce Carol Oates & Ingemar Johansson.
       Muldoon's old homeland, Ireland, figures prominently, unforgotten. News often comes from there, and Muldoon always finds a connection ("Weehawken. Kearny. The Oranges."). At one point the sonogram of his pregnant wife's womb:
resembled nothing so much
as a satellite map of Ireland
       Muldoon also protests Seamus Deane writing in the TLS that he is "in exile":
this term serves mostly to belittle
the likes of Brodsky or Padilla

and is not appropriate of me
       There are further small trips -- to New Orleans, for example -- and movies, music, plays that are seen and heard. Muldoon attends the première of the opera The Ghosts of Versailles, scathingly dismissing it.
       Published at the same time as The Annals of Chile (see our review), this volume is a small complement to it. (One poem -- quoted above, and titled "The Sonogram" in The Annals of Chile -- is included in both.) Despite the obscure or personal references The Prince of the Quotidian is more accessible -- it is far shorter and less dense. Most notably, the poetry is also much more joyful, as Muldoon takes pleasure in the everyday.
       The second-to-last poem questions the whole collection, suggesting that the poetry is banal and too simple, without an image worth much of anything, "dross". The criticism cuts to the heart of the poems:
Who gives a shit about the dreck
of your life ? Who gives a toss
about your tossing off ?
       Muldoon feels ambivalent about what he has done, but the collection (and its counterpart, The Annals of Chile) is a success. An enjoyable read, certainly recommended.

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Paul Muldoon: Other books by Paul Muldoon under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Poetry under review

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About the Author:

       (Northern) Irish poet Paul Muldoon was born in 1951. He has written several collections of poetry and opera libretti. He has become a citizen of the United States and currently teaches at Princeton University.

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