Paul Muldoon

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.

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 recording Woodberry Poetry Room

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

Superior Aloeswood:Paul Muldoon, 2017

Songs and Sonnets: Paul Muldoon, 2012

Plan B: Paul Muldoon, 2009

On Shakespeare's Sonnets: A Poets' Celebration,...

Maggot, Faber and Faber, 2010

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

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

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


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



2009 John William Corrington Award for Literary Excellence

Prize website

2004 Aspen Prize for Poetry

Prize website

2004 Shakespeare Prize

2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award

Prize website

2003 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for 'Moy Sand and Gravel'

Prize website

2003 Griffin Poetry Prize (Canada) for 'Moy Sand and Gravel'

Prize website

2002 (shortlisted) TS Eliot Prize for 'Moy Sand and Gravel'

Prize website

1997 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry for 'New Selected Poems 1968–1994'

Prize website

1994 TS Eliot Prize 'The Annals of Chile'

Prize website

1992 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for 'Madoc: A Mystery'

Prize website


Buy album £9.99



2The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants


3The Bangle (Slight Return)


Books by Paul Muldoon