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Paul Muldoon
at the
complete review:

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Name: Paul MULDOON
Nationality: (Northern) Irish
Born: 20 June 1951
Awards: Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, 1982
T. S. Eliot Prize, 1994

  • Graduated from Queen's University, Belfast
  • Worked as a television producer for the BBC, 1973-1986
  • Has taught at Princeton University since 1990
  • Elected Professor of Poetry at Oxford University in 1999
  • Has become an American citizen

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Highlighted titles are under review at the complete review

Please note that this bibliography is not necessarily complete.

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What others have to
say about
Paul Muldoon:

  • "Muldoon has still not reached a readership much beyond the coteries. His refusal to rest on the laurels of previous successes ensures that each new book frustrates audience expectations, and sometimes outslips even his most committed admirers. For sceptics, changing the rules looks nothing more than a form of cheating." - Tim Kendall, The Guardian (17/11/1998)

  • "It is true that Muldoon sometimes writes directly, with plain emotion, even sentimentally. But those are not his most characteristic poems, nor his best. When he is at his most original, Muldoon is rather a kind of acrobat, piling up strange rhymes, references, and conceits in a way that is disorienting and exhilarating." - Adam Kirsch, The New Republic (30/11/1998)

  • "Paul Muldoon's poems might just as well be crosswords, and indeed some of them are crosswords (.....) Gamesman, then, is another name for poet in Paul Muldoon's practice." - William Pratt, World Literature Today (Spring/1999)

  • "The early Muldoon wore only his art on his sleeve, almost never dilated on "themes" or "issues" in his poems, and -- this was telling -- wrote hardly any published prose. Middle Muldoon is evolving into something that looks at first glance very different. He is still a decidedly hermetic poet, but he now often works in more public, communal forms or modes than the lyric or the fragmentary narrative poem where once he hibernated all year long." - Nicholas Jenkins, Times Literary Supplement (29/1/1999)

  • "Mr. Muldoon's example shows just how dangerous it is to swallow Joyce whole, how soon one ends up coining words such as "oscaraboscarabinary," jabbering about "tegelmousted Tuaregs" and generally sounding like an unholy amalgam of Ezra Pound and Dr. Seuss." - Ben Downing, Wall Street Journal (13/4/2001)

  • "He is very funny and sophisticated, but his comedy disguises what it cannot quite conceal: a lurking sentimentality. I think this poet belongs to what Coleridge called the secondary realm of Fancy, not to Imagination proper." - Robert Nye, The Times (9/5/2001)

  • "Muldoon's formal procedures and his sidelong wit are partly the means by which he protects himself from a world he finds horrifying, particularly when it comes to Irish politics. They also enable him to channel and convey a powerful emotional life. The combination of scepticism and passion is uniquely compelling." - Lachlan Mackinnon, Daily Telegraph (4/6/2001)

  • "Muldoon's manner is both playful and troubled. Though he subverts connection, meaning and the reverence of art and life, he subverts subversion as well. If reality has become an irrelevant philosophical and artistic concept, we sense beneath the clowning a refusal of its passing." - Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review (10/6/2001)

  • "But part of the enormous difficulty Muldoon presents for readers is knowing how seriously to take anything he says, or writes. The word that critics love to apply to his style is "ludic". There are the often abstruse allusions, the casual, even cheeky tone, the endless wordplay. In Muldoon's work, images stack up like a heap of discarded road signs all pointing in different directions; some of his poems read as if created by the William Burroughs cut-and-paste method." - Adam Newey, New Statesman (11/6/2001)

  • "Muldoon has called himself "the Prince of the Quotidian"; he is also the prince of ellipsis, obliquity and surprise, of the pun and the trouvaille . He is certainly the undisputed master of tone. (...) The reader is initially entranced by the way Muldoon says things, and it is only later that the dark matter of the poem comes to impinge." - Stephen Romer, The Guardian (16/6/2001)

  • "What is not in dispute is his voice, his great gift, the glissade over the surface of the English language that creates markings both strange and yet strangely familiar." - Warwick McFadyen, The Age (14/4/2002)

  • "Those who think of Paul Muldoon as the benign, pudgy Puck of contemporary poetry, imping around with a mischievous grin on his type-face, miss the vital dimension ofethical seriousness in which his work exists." - Robert Macfarlane, Times Literary Supplement (11/10/2002)

  • "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. All good poets deserve attentive readers, but Muldoon needs you to be skeptical, needs you to forget what you know (but not what he knows) and remember what he wants you to. (...) Muldoon is so varied and lavish a poet that no reader will find him wholly accessible" - Peter Davison, The New York Times Book Review (13/10/2002)

  • "Muldoon remains compulsory, distinguished by his idiosyncrasy. He may resort to familiar charms and rubrics, but his obsessions with particular forms and registers and vocabularies never dwindles to insensitivity. His is a triumph of technique -- a constant resuscitation of the self and of form." - Ian Sansom, The Guardian (2/11/2002)

  • "(S)elf-expression is about the last thing a Muldoon poem is for. The man is a maker and finder of patterns. It begins with an authentically personal grammar; as T.S.Eliot is founded on rhythm, so certain constructions and tenses -- even the pluperfect -- are Muldoon. These then find issuance in rhyme, of which Mr Muldoon is the outstanding contemporary practitioner." - The Economist

  • "Much of the difficulty in reading Muldoon stems from his self-portrait as a dabbler, stubbornly refusing to admit that his words might be read by, let alone affect, others." - Jenny Ludwig, Boston Review (Summer/2003)

  • "Everyone who reads Paul Muldoon will be dazzled by his linguistic exuberance. (...) In his best poems, the technical flair and buoyant voice go manic, outlining the shape of other emotions, and hollowing out a place for another consciousness, which does not share in the pride and prerogative of the style. He rides the wave of his swank virtuosity, but chaos and sorrow underlie it." - Laura Quinney, London Review of Books (23/10/2003))

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Pros and Cons
of the author's work:

  • Playful, clever style
  • Willing (and able) to try a great deal
  • Grand ambitions
  • Sense of humour

  • Overly playful, overly clever style
  • Technical aspects -- rhymes, metres, etc. -- occasionally forced
  • Allusive, often simply obscure
  • Irish and American foci

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the complete review's Opinion

     Semi-Irish writer Paul Muldoon, a Roman Catholic from Northern Ireland who is now an American citizen, is certainly among the most interesting poets currently writing in English. He has been publishing for a surprisingly long time, and has long enjoyed a high reputation -- though he has his fair share of critics.
     His word-play -- full of invention, allusion, sound -- is not universally applauded. Some argue he goes too far, or that he does not achieve enough with it. Rhymes are often forced (to put it kindly), form forced into submission at all costs.
     Muldoon can, it seems, be difficult simply for the sake of difficulty. His can be a poetry of provocation, and one where meanings are hidden seemingly just to show how they can be hidden. His challenges can be too much -- but even the most obscure poems are still, generally, at least of some interest.
     The personal, the heart-felt, is often striking. The clever is, often, very clever indeed.
     He is particularly good at conveying a moment or a character from his past, or following a chain of memories or incidents through unlikely (yet utterly plausible) twists.
     Muldoon also offers long, allusive, involuted poems. Meanings, events, words, and characters fold back or feed upon each other. Bits are cast off, transformed, resurrected. Pieces of poems resurface elsewhere, ideas and approaches are reexamined in completely different circumstances.
     Muldoon almost always keeps you guessing. That can, at times, be frustrating, but when he is at his best it can be exhilarating.

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Paul Muldoon: Poems by Paul Muldoon: Paul Muldoon's books at the complete review: See also:
  • Index of Poetry at the complete review
  • Index of other Author Pages at the complete review

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