Paul Muldoon is one of the most exciting and accomplished poets writing in English. Few authors display such mastery of the language, form and measure of poetry, while at the same time opening poetry up to all the contemporary forces of disorder, contingency and confusion. But for this very reason, Muldoon’s is a complex and demanding body of work. Clair Wills's study, which covers the first 25 years of Muldoon's poetic output, is written both for the general poetry reader as well as those with a professional interest in poetry.
In this highly readable book, Clair Wills takes the measure of Muldoon’s poetic gifts. She offers close readings of many of the major poems, while also assessing the general features of his unmistakable style, and his relation to signiﬁcant predecessors such as Robert Frost and Seamus Heaney. Her book also highlights the major themes in Muldoon’s poetry, such as autobiography and the question of origins, sexuality, Irish myth and legend, history and political violence in Northern Ireland, and the dynamics of cross-cultural encounters.
Clair Wills tracks Muldoon’s poetic development, exploring the key concerns of each of his books, from New Weather (1973) to Hay (1998). Concluding with an evaluation of Muldoon’s then most recent collection, Hay, her study will be an essential reference point for discussions of this important poet. Her chapter on Hay was the first critical essay to note that Muldoon's long poem ‘Third Epistle to Timothy’ in Hay not only rhymes with two other long poems in that collection, ‘The Mud Room’ and ‘The Bangle (Slight Return)’, but also that these poems in turn "rhyme" with the two long poems in Muldoon's previous collection, Annals of Chile (1994), ‘Yarrow’ and ‘Incantata’: 'Each poem uses the same ninety rhyme words, and in the same order as they ﬁrst occur in ‘Yarrow’, but in different verse forms, so that the repetition is undetectable unless you are looking for it. […] this is a repetitive device beyond anything which an attentive reader of the individual poem could be expected to grasp.'
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