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Paul Muldoon


Paul Muldoon was born in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, in 1951. He studied at Queen's University, Belfast, and has worked for BBC Belfast as a radio and television producer.

His most recent book of poetry is Selected Poems 1968–2014 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016). He is also the author of One Thousand Things Worth Knowing (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), Maggot (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010); Horse Latitudes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007); and Moy Sand and Gravel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), which won the Pulitzer Prize, among others.

He has also written libretti for the operas Bandanna (1999) and Shining Brow (1993); the play Six Honest Serving Men (1995); and edited The Faber Book of Beasts (1997), The Essential Byron (1989), and The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry (1986).

Muldoon was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1990, the T. S. Eliot Award for The Annals of Chile in 1994, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature in 1996, and the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for his New Selected Poems (Faber & Faber Poetry, 1996) in 1996. In 2003 he won the Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry. In 2017 he was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. 

Muldoon has taught at a number of British and American universities including Cambridge University, Columbia University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Massachusetts. He served as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University from 1999 to 2004 and is currently Howard G.B. Clark ’21 Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University. He lives in New York City and Sharon Springs, New York.

Selected Bibliography

Selected Poems 1968–2014 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016)
One Thousand Things Worth Knowing (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015)
Maggot (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010)
Horse Latitudes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007)
Moy Sand and Gravel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004)
Poems: 19681998 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001)
Hay (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999)
The Annals of Chile (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995)
Madoc: A Mystery (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990)
Meeting the British (Wake Forest University Press, 1987)
Quoof (Wake Forest University Press, 1983)
Why Brownlee Left (Wake Forest University Press, 1981)
Mules (Wake Forest University Press, 1977)
New Weather (Faber and Faber, 1973)

Paul Muldoon
Photo credit: Oliver Morris

By This Poet


Extraordinary Rendition


I gave you back my claim on the mining town
and the rich vein we once worked,
the tumble down
from a sluice box that irked

you so much, the narrow gauge
that opened up to one and all
when it ran out at the landing stage
beyond the falls.

I gave you back oak ties,
bully flitches, the hand-hewn crossbeams
from which hung hardtack

in a burlap bag that, I'd surmise,
had burst its seams
the last night we lay by the old spur track.


You gave me back your frown
and the most recent responsibility you'd shirked
along with something of your renown
for having jumped from a cage just before it jerked

to a standstill, your wild rampage
shot through with silver falderals,
the speed of that falling cage
and the staidness of our canyon walls.

You gave me back lake skies,
pulley glitches, gully pitches, the reflected gleams
of two tin plates and mugs in the shack,

the echoes of love sighs
and love screams
our canyon walls had already given back.

A Rooster in Tepoztlán

Confirmed in their belief there’s still a need
for worship prior to Lauds,
the street-dog choristers

insist on how
any three of them form a quorum.
However great the din

they’re eventually forced to cede
their urine-soaked sod
to a single rooster,

his beak the prow
of an imperial quinquereme
at the break of dawn.

Not that a rooster ever rues
the day of days
he first lowered the tone

by kicking up a fuss.
He specializes in splutter and spout.
Sometimes the bearer

becomes the bad news,
as when Augustus would parlay      
the cult of Diana

at Ephesus
into the out-and-out
worship of himself as Emperor.
A rooster will pay cash on the barrel
to join the Praetorian Guard
but the flanking eagles betoken

our throwing off one yoke
even as we take on fresh burdens.
Left to his own devices, a rooster will don

the kind of gaudy apparel
more often associated with the bard—
the three-quarter-length tuigen            

or “feather-cloak.” 
That he has a sense of his own importance
is hardly something he’ll deny.

That wattle-ear was sliced
off a slave
by the self-same Simon Peter

who’d cover it with a tissue
of lies… The blue gel,
the iodine,

the ice-pack ice.
The pigs who’ve had a close shave
in the abattoir

are in such a daze
they can’t tell
Gethsemane from the Garden of Eden.

The rooster’s claws are tempered by calcium
derived from the forearm
of a devotee of Saint Francis Xavier

going for broke
as he sawed the heart from a yucca
or agave. The rooster himself would never deign

to take a shortcut to Elysium
via fermented sap. Beating his breast on a farm
is learned behavior

but the tendency to stroke
his own ego                             
is pretty much baked into his DNA.

From the top
of the rubbish tip on which he’s parked
he rubbishes any duenna

trying to pull rank.
His hens are rumpled. Raggedy-ass.
Most statements issued from his pilaster

of slow-cured adobe
are followed by an exclamation mark!
A sheet of corrugated tin

is his main plank.
“When oh when,” he blubbers, “will this cup pass?”
All bully-pulpitry. All bluster.

For it’s very rarely a cup of joy,
the cup
that runneth over.

More a seed-bleed
from the agave’s once-in-a-lifetime pod.
More a fairground tune 

from a wind-up toy
winding us up
for what seems forever.

Till the street-dogs have once again treed
a god
somewhere on the outskirts of town.

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