Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon’s latest collection of poems is Frolic and Detour.

Poem: ‘The Bannisters’

Paul Muldoon, 2 April 2020

Our ornamental gates and railings that were melted downfor rifle barrels have gained some sort of posthumous renownby unambiguously drawing a line in the sand.The gates and railings are finally taking a firm standand even more emphatically bringing things to a close.The exit wound is their approximation of a roseor a geranium under gauze on the windowsill.Gangrene. The green and gold of the...

It wasn’t meant to be like this. If we were destined to push the envelope surely it was by flying a recovered Avro Arrow above the speed of sound? The most we were meant to condemn was the brief resurgence of Day-Glo in a thistle flower, given how we routinely forsook such dazzle for the drear. That was before spring itself was a no-show. The fact of global warming, we must now concede,...

Poem: ‘Famous First Words’

Paul Muldoon, 3 February 2000

Archimedes’ first words were ‘Stand away from my diagram.’ Sir Richard Burton’s first word was ‘Chloroform.’

Chang’s first words were ‘I don’t want to go to bed.’ Alexandre Dumas’s first words were ‘I shall never know how it all comes out.’

Thomas Edison’s first words were ‘It is very beautiful over...

Diary: Hiberno-English Shenanigans

Paul Muldoon, 1 July 1999

10 March. At 6:45 a.m. I set off by car service to Newark airport to catch the 10 a.m. Virgin/Continental flight to Gatwick. At this time of the morning the New Jersey Turnpike is too busy altogether. This use of altogether, I’m reminded by Terence Patrick Dolan in A Dictionary of Hiberno-English, means ‘wholly, completely’ and may be compared to the Irish phrase ar fad, particularly in its positioning at the end of a sentence. There’s a world of difference between the phrase ‘you’re altogether too thin-skinned’ and ‘you’re too thin-skinned altogether.’ The latter, Dolan notes, is spoken by Seumas in Act 1, line 87 of Sean O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman. ‘The main intention of this dictionary,’ I’m only after reading in the introduction (only after is another Gaelic construction), ‘is to make accessible the common word stock of Hiberno-English in both its present and past forms, oral and literary … Much of the vocabulary of Hiberno-English consists of words in common currency in Standard English, but an appreciable proportion of the word stock of Irish people is not standard and may be misunderstood, or not understood at all, by speakers of standard or near-standard English.’ I’m thinking of how I’m a cute hoor altogether – a phrase that might certainly be misunderstood – for having changed from tonight’s 9:25 Virgin flight with its 9:05 a.m. arrival into Heathrow to this much less damaging daytime jaunt. When I look up cute hoor, I’m directed to hoor and read as follows:

Three Poems in Memory of Charles Monteith 9 February 1921 – 9 May 1995

Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon and Tom Paulin, 21 September 1995


Tom Paulin

Or Charlus as McGahern would call youwhen we stacked up stories with Heaney– all fun a great geg pure pleasureI’d think of this village near Donegal town– Mountcharlus they say in those partsnot Mountcharleswhich was how one editor at Faberused to sign every letter he sent(was it Dunn who wonderedhad you somehow acquired a peerage?)then I’d try hard to...

Poem: ‘Ovid: Metamorphoses’

Paul Muldoon, 25 February 1993

Book VI Lines 313-381

All the more reason, then, that men and women should go in fear of Leto, their vengeful, vindictive numen, and worship the mother of Apollo and Artemis all the more zealously. This last tale of the demise of Niobe brought others to mind, inspiring no less zeal among the storytellers. ‘On the fertile soil of Lycia,’ one began, ‘the peasants, too, would...

Poem: ‘Oscar’

Paul Muldoon, 24 October 1991

Be that as it may, I’m wakened by the moans not of the wind nor the wood-demons

but Oscar Mac Oscar, as we call the hound who’s wangled himself into our bed; ‘Why?’ ‘Why not?’

He lies between us like an ancient quoof with a snout of perished gutta- percha, and whines at something on the roof....

Poem: ‘Tea’

Paul Muldoon, 8 February 1990

I was rooting through tea-chest after tea-chest as they drifted in along Key West

when I chanced on ‘Pythagoras in America’; the book had fallen open at a bookmark

of tea; a tassel of black watered silk from a Missal:

a tea-bird’s black tail-feather. All I have in the house is some left-over

squid cooked in its own ink and this unfortunate cup of tea. Take it. Drink.

Poem: ‘My Grandfather’s Wake’

Paul Muldoon, 7 February 1985

If the houses in Wyeth’s Christina’s World and Mallick’s Days of Heaven are triremes, yes, triremes riding the ‘sea of grain’, then each has a little barge in tow – a freshly-dug grave.

I was trying to remember, Nancy, how many New England graveyards you own, all silver birch and neat, white picket-fences.

If only that you might make room for a nine-banded...

Sweaney Peregraine

Paul Muldoon, 1 November 1984

The title-sequence of Seamus Heaney’s sixth collection finds him on Station Island, Lough Derg, more commonly known as St Patrick’s Purgatory. It’s the setting for a pilgrimage undertaken by thousands of Irish men and women each year. For three days they fast and pray, deprive themselves of sleep, and walk barefoot round the station ‘beds’ – circles of rough stones said to be the remains of monastic huts. A place, then, strongly associated in the Irish mind with self-denial, contemplation, spiritual renewal; a place, too, that has attracted writers like Sean O’Faolain, Denis Devlin, William Carleton and Patrick Kavanagh; a place where the individual might decently ruminate on his relationship with society.’

Two Poems

Paul Muldoon, 1 December 1983

The Brownlows

Were loyal and steadfast, like granite against the sea:

‘The only thing that ran in our family was the greyhound.’

The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife

I might as well be another guest at the wedding-feast of Strongbow and Aoife Mac Murrough as watch you, Mary,

try to get to grips with a spider-crab’s crossbow and cuirass. A creative pause before the second...

Poem: ‘from Last Poems’

Paul Muldoon, 19 February 1981


Not that I care who’s sleeping with whom now she’s had her womb removed, now it lies in its own glar like the last beetroot in the pickle-jar.


I would have it, were I bold, without relish, my own lightly-broiled heart on the side.


I would be happy in the knowledge that as I laboured up the no-through-road towards your cottage you ran to meet me. Your long white shift,...

A Book of Evasions

Paul Muldoon, 20 March 1980

In his budget of 1969, Charles Haughey, then Minister of Finance, granted exemption from income tax to artists resident in the Republic of Ireland. In the past, Irish authors had been much given to exile: now, perhaps, they could afford to stay at home and exercise their proper talents for silence and cunning. That ‘standing army of ten thousand poets’ was then supplemented by a troop of foreign gallowglasses, all benefiting to a greater or lesser degree from this piece of ‘enlightened legislation’, some internationally best-selling soldiers-of-fortune to a very considerable degree indeed. Not since Lebor Gabala, or the Book of Invasions, that pseudo-historical account of the successive colonisations of Ireland from the flood to the coming of Christianity (including those of the Roman Cessair, Parthalan the Greek, the giant Fomorians, the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha De Dannan, the Gaels themselves under the command of the Spanish Soldier) – not since then had such a multinational company established a beachhead. This might be one of Mr Haughey’s more successful – and less contentious – import drives.

Poem: ‘The Princess and the Pea’

Paul Muldoon, 7 February 1980

This is no dream By Dulac out of the Brothers Grimm, A child’s aloof disquiet, Her impish mouth, The quilt upon embroidered quilt Of satin and shot silk, Her lying there, at several removes, Like cream on milk.

This is the dream of her older sister, Who is stretched on the open grave Of all the men she has known. Far down, something niggles. The stir Of someone still alive. Then a cry,...



18 May 2000

The translation of The Birds reviewed by David Wheatley (LRB, 18 May) was done by Richard Martin and myself, rather than by myself alone.

Someone Else: Paul Muldoon

Adam Phillips, 4 January 2007

Paul Muldoon excluded himself from Contemporary Irish Poetry, his 1986 Faber anthology, but he included a poem by Seamus Heaney that was dedicated to him. We don’t of course know why the...

Read More

Everyone who reads Paul Muldoon will be dazzled by his linguistic exuberance. He follows the lead of Pope and Byron, engaging in many of the displays of wit that they engage in, particularly an...

Read More

In the Gasworks

David Wheatley, 18 May 2000

Marcel Aymé’s novel Le Passemuraille, about a man who can walk through walls, would have interested Thomas Caulfield Irwin (1823-92). Irwin is cited in Paul Muldoon’s To...

Read More

Little Do We Know

Mark Ford, 12 January 1995

‘What are we going to write about now?’ one of Ulster’s more engagé poets half-jokingly inquired soon after the IRA’s ceasefire was announced. One would imagine that...

Read More


Paul Driver, 19 August 1993

Although W.H. Auden, who ranks with Hugo von Hofmannsthal among the master librettists of the age, thought that the meaning of libretto’s words were its least important component (at any...

Read More

Muldoon – A Mystery

Michael Hofmann, 20 December 1990

Looked at in one way, Madoc – A Mystery is an extraordinary and unpredictable departure, a book of poems the size of many novels, with a title poem nigh on two hundred and fifty pages long,...

Read More

Out of the blue

Mark Ford, 10 December 1987

So characteristic of Paul Muldoon’s poetry as to be almost a hallmark is the moment, unnerving and exciting in about equal measures, when his speaker is suddenly revealed to himself as...

Read More

Douglas Dunn’s Selected Poems includes the greater part of his published poems, from Terry Street (published in 1969, and reissued with this selection) through four more volumes to the...

Read More

Green Martyrs

Patricia Craig, 24 July 1986

Each of these books – two anthologies and a critical study – is notable for its exclusions, among other things; each takes a strong line over questions of definition and evaluation;...

Read More

The New Narrative

John Kerrigan, 16 February 1984

‘When We talk of narrative poetry today,’ James Fenton asks in the September issue of Poetry Review, ‘are we referring to the kind of story in which, you want to know what...

Read More

Long Goodbye

Derek Mahon, 20 November 1980

Why Brownlee left is Paul Muldoon’s third book of poems, and his most interesting so far. Whereas, in the earlier books, he didn’t do a great deal more than exercise the quirky,...

Read More

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences