There is almost no getting around it: any real devotee of a poet will be a completist, and a ‘selected poems’ to such a reader will be a ho-hum affair. (Perhaps it’s that the poet, ranging and choosing, ‘playing god’, has usurped the job of the reader, and the reader – the good reader, the ideal reader – resents him for it). A loveless and friendless book, then, by and large, bespeaking at the most the poet’s good or bad judgment, his self-infatuation or self-severity, a weakness for his beginnings, or a preference for the newer stuff. It will be obvious or perverse, both too long and too short (more is less, but less is less as well), neither old nor new, and the whole thing standard, predictable and expressionless.
Not so this one of Paul Muldoon’s. The astonishing escapologist (‘Who cooked and ate an omelette/ midway across Niagara falls?’ he asks in the teasing poem autobiography called ‘A Collegelands Catechism’), has basically done it again, and by the simplest means. He has represented each one of his now 12 books – from New Weather (1973) to One Thousand Things Worth Knowing (2015) – with five poems apiece. From the eight poems of Madoc: A Mystery (1990) – five pieces; from the forty-two of Hay (1998) – five pieces. The Irish landscape painting on the cover of the US edition (Martin Gale’s Dividing Road), a milk and water sky in late winter or early spring, tufty yellow grass, a couple of shaggy vealers, a shiny motorway curving emptily away into the distance, itself is horizontally sliced five ways. Sixty poems, a little over two hundred pages, and strait-jacketed by the Zwang to quincunx, a gift to old and new readers alike. As often with Muldoon, one wonders why no one has thought to do something similar before. (I can’t think of anything quite like it). ... read more.- Michael Hofmann, Poetry Ireland Review
Few people bother to memorize poems any more. Were this practice to come back into fashion, not many would turn to the work of Paul Muldoon.
He’s a difficult poet — allusive, riddling, satirical, strange. His work only rarely trips off the tongue. His poems set trapdoors — emotional, metrical, intellectual — into which you can fall for miles. On the way down, there will be bats. You may land with thunk back in County Armagh, in Northern Ireland, on the farm where he was born. He will have dropped you there (he is poetry editor of The New Yorker) from a dizzying urban height.
Since I first read it 10 years ago, however, it’s a Muldoon poem I most wish I had added to the small college-era verse-store in my head. The poem is “The Old Country,” and it first appeared in his collection “Horse Latitudes” (2006).... read more.- Dwight Garner, New York Times
The Fuzzy In-Betweenness of Everything
In Paul Muldoon’s curiously timely poetry, identities are always fluid and allegiances always partial.
“Yet by my broken bones// I tell new weather.” When these precocious lines appeared in his 1973 debut New Weather, the Irish poet Paul Muldoon was 21, a student at Queen’s University in Belfast, and generally too self-deprecating, too generalization-averse, for such brash pronouncements. Today, in one of those serendipitous coincidences that buoy his poetry, Muldoon’s forecast sounds like utter understatement. At 65, Muldoon—Princeton professor, New Yorker poetry editor (and honey-tongued host of its poetry podcast), one Nobel shy of amassing the literary world’s biggest prizes—can take credit for an expansive weather pattern in contemporary poetry, a half-century of shapeshifting, inimitable work.
... read more.- Christopher Spaide, slate.com
Paul Muldoon’s Selected Poems 1968-2014 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) demonstrates why he has long been regarded as one of the most significant poets of the past 50 years. Here, as he draws from numerous previous collections, including “Moy Sand and Gravel,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, Muldoon displays the full range of his voice, which can be whimsical, melancholy, pensive, angry or delight in word play.... read more.- Elizabeth Lund, The Washington Post
Paul Muldoon’s Muldoonishness, and the regularity with which new books appear, can obscure his innovation. As he put it in his poem The Key: “I’ve sometimes run a little ahead of myself, but mostly I lag behind, my footfalls already pre-empted by their echoes.” However, Muldoon’s books are not karaoke repetitions or formal, foregone conclusions, and Selected Poems 1968-2014 (Faber, £14.99) offers a good vantage point on the restlessness of his growth as a poet.... read more.- John McAuliffe, The Irish Times
A virtuoso since his student days in Northern Ireland, Muldoon has collected many of poetry’s most coveted trophies during his half-century-long career, including a Pulitzer Prize. This impressive yet approachable selection, replacing an earlier selected, offers an excellent introduction to his relentlessly crafted work.... read more.- Publishers Weekly