Image by Jemimah Kuhfeld

Paul Muldoon

b. 1951


Form is a straitjacket in the way that a straitjacket was a straitjacket for Houdini. Paul Muldoon.

Previous Next

About Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon is one of Ireland's most outstanding contemporary poets, and one of the most admired English-language poets anywhere in the world. He was born into a Catholic family in 1951 in a predominantly Protestant region of Portadown, County Armagh in Northern Ireland. His father was a farm labourer and his mother a schoolteacher. Although his family was not wealthy, he has said in an interview for the BBC that his parents sent him to elocution lessons as a child, and bought a piano for him and his two siblings so that they might "improve" themselves.

Muldoon went to St. Patrick's College, where he learned Gaelic and studied Irish literature, and where he also wrote some of his first poems in Gaelic, later switching to English to give himself greater linguistic control. Until he discovered the work of Seamus Heaney and other Irish poets, Muldoon's main early poetic influences were Robert Frost and, in particular, T.S. Eliot.

He studied English at Queen's University of Belfast under Heaney who, recognizing his precocious talent, arranged for a manuscript to be sent to Faber. This resulted in the publication of his first full collection New Weather in 1973. This collection sprang from his experience of Northern Irish country life, but also included poems set in America, and references to popular culture. "That is a part of Eliot that stuck," Muldoon said in an interview with the Guardian, "If you look at something like The Waste Land, there are lots of snatches of ballads and songs and the apparently inconsequential things that we have around us."

Paul Muldoon has since gone on to produce more than 30 collections of poetry and has won many awards including the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Pulitzer Prize. His complex re-shaping of poetic conventions, Joycean word-play,cunning fragmentation of narrative, splicing-together of references to high and popular culture, and generally brilliant playfulness have led him to be called the pre-eminent post-modern poet of the age.

The first part of 'Immram' (the Gaelic for 'voyage', and the central poem in his 1980 collection Why Brownlee Left) can be heard on this page; it derives from the ancient Irish poem 'Immram Curaig Maele Duin'. The poem works with the Irish vision-quest genre, adapting it to include allusions to a wide variety of other sources, including film noir and Raymond Chandler. It is a dazzling performance, tackling complicated questions of home and identity, and Paul Muldoon reads it here with a compelling mixture of intensity and insouciance.

This recording was made at the Audio Workshop, London on July 3rd 2009 and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Additional material and useful links

Paul Muldoon on poetry and childhood

Paul Muldoon talks to Jack Klaff about his poetry, and discusses his upbringing in County Armagh, Northern Ireland.

http://www.intelligencesquared.com/talks/paul-muldoon-on-poetry-and-childhood

Paul Muldoon recording Woodberry Poetry Room

Paul Muldoon reading with Seamus Heaney, Woodberry Poetry Room, Harvard.

http://hcl.harvard.edu/poetryroom/listeningbooth/index.cfm#

Paul Muldoon at the Edinburgh Festival 2011

Paul Muldoon: 'I read books on unlikely subjects' - video on the guardian website. The poet Paul Muldoon explains why he prefers reading non-fiction, and sees festivals as a cure for...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/video/2011/aug/28/paul-muldoon-edinburgh-video

Selected bibliography

Maggot, Faber and Faber, 2010

The End of the Poem: Oxford Lectures: Oxford Lectures in...

Paul Muldoon Reading From His Poems The Poetry Archive,...

(ed)The Scrake of Dawn (Poems by young people from...

(ed)The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry Faber...

Buy

(ed)The Faber Book of Beasts Faber and Faber, 1997

Buy

The Astrakhan Cloak by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill (translation...

Buy

The Birdsby Aristophanes (translation with Richard...

The Fifty Minute Mermaidby Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill (...

Buy

Prizes

2009 John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence 2009 John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence

Prize website

2004 Aspen Prize for Poetry 2004 Aspen Prize for Poetry

Prize website

2004 Shakespeare Prize 2004 Shakespeare Prize

2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award 2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award

Prize website

2003 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry Moy Sand and Gravel 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry <i>Moy Sand and Gravel</i>

Prize website

2003 Griffin Poetry Prize (Canada) Moy Sand and Gravel 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize (Canada)<i>Moy Sand and Gravel</i>

Prize website

2002 (shortlisted) TS Eliot Prize Moy Sand and Gravel 2002 (shortlisted) TS Eliot Prize <i>Moy Sand and Gravel</i>

Prize website

1997 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry New Selected Poems 1968–1994 1997 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry <i>New Selected Poems 1968–1994</i>

Prize website

1994 TS Eliot Prize The Annals of Chile 1994 TS Eliot Prize <i>The Annals of Chile</i>

Prize website

1992 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize Madoc: A Mystery 1992 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize <i>Madoc: A Mystery</i>

Prize website

Links

Recordings

Paul Muldoon Reading from His Poems

1Immram

2The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants

3The Bangle (Slight Return)

A tour of the Archive with Rachel Smith

Visiting the Poetry Archive feels like browsing through your favourite bookshop and finding that all the books are...

Featured Guided Tours


Books & cds by Paul Muldoon