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.