Hay

Hay

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998
Faber and Faber, 1998

ISBN: 978-0374526191
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"More than two decades ago, Seamus Heaney wrote of his former student Paul Muldoon that his "hermetic tendency" can lead him "into puzzles rather than poems." Since then, Muldoon has evolved into a kind of anti-Heaney, creating poetic puzzles of daunting erudition and fascinating complexity, while sharpening his teacher's capacious humor into a dazzling wit. If Northern Irish poets are expected to write Wordsworthian lyric verse about their rural childhoods, Muldoon instead composes allusively postmodern, cosmopolitan poetry. Having won Britain's prestigious T.S. Eliot prize for his last collection, The Annals of Chile, Muldoon (who teaches at Princeton) here continues to amaze and bewilder readers in equal measure with his bravura. "Errata" consists entirely — in the spirit of Nabokov's Pale Fire — of a proofreader's corrections to a faulty set of galleys: "For 'Steinbeck' read 'Steenbeck.' For 'ludic' read 'lucid.'" Not all of Hay is so stylistically showy. "Anonymous: Myself and Pangur" is a faithful translation of an utterly charming 9th-century Irish poem drawing parallels between the craft of the scholar-poet and his white cat: "Pangur going in for the kill with all his customary skill while I, sharp-witted, swift, and sure, shed light on what had been obscure." And striking a more demotic note is Muldoon's verse cycle on a series of favorite rock albums, from the Rolling Stones to Nirvana, no less exuberant. As much at home in mainstream pop culture as in the obscure corners of the literary tradition, sharp-witted Muldoon both parodies and honors with panache." - Publishers Weekly

"The Irish-born Princeton professor dazzles the ear with his eighth book of verse; full of inventive rhyme and repetitions, and seamless meters, Muldoon’s work resembles the monk of his poem Anonymous: sharp-witted, swift, and sure. A linguistic voluptuary, Muldoon sometimes leaves readers behind with his gestures to Apollinaire, and his dense Joycean patter; but his best poems ground his visionary sensibility in everyday observation: The Mudroom and two poems titled The Bangle, in particular, rely on a collage of imagery and idiom, from Yiddish slang, Asian clarity, and classical allusion to the common items found in a mudroom (hubcap, extra fridge, soft drinks). Muldoon’s playful wit supports one virtuoso piece after another: a bit on the famous Siamese twins, Chang and Eng ("Lag"); a mess of fractured aphorisms and proverbs (Symposium), and a versified errata sheet...Throughout here, he plays on his name and returns to the simple image of his title: the one thing he knows with certainty. When he eschews cleverness for its own sake, Muldoon enlists his considerable technical skill in undermining his own conceits: he’s clearly a major young poet in any case." - Kirkus

"His boldest and most engaging poems yet." - Michael Hofmann, The Times (London)

"Every generation has to clear a space to make itself heard, and Muldoon's way to clear a space in a tradition that includes William Butler Yeats, a visionary and urbane poet, and Patrick Kavanagh, an earthy country poet, and Seamus Heaney, who some have said is a perfect fusion of the two impulses, was to write a different poetry altogether, witty, cosmopolitan, playful, and postmodern." - Robert Hass, The Washington Post Book World

"A partial formal inventory of [this book] would include a stealthy chain of sonnets, a wicked ghazal, sinewy couplets, deadpan concrete verse experiments, a kaleidoscopic ninety-part haiku journal, and, of course, all those canting half- and quarter-rhymes. . . . Crafty, ruthless, and beautiful." - Robert Polito, Bookforum