Selected Poems 1968–2014

Paul Muldoon. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $30 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-26082-8
A virtuoso since his student days in Northern Ireland, Muldoon (One Thousand Things Worth Knowing) 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. His early lyrics of rural life and the Irish Troubles have aged well: they remain as powerful and delicately wrought as the switch a boy makes for his own beatings in “Anseo.” Other poems slyly address political questions. “There is, surely, in this story/ a moral,” Muldoon writes in “The Frog,” asking about the eponymous amphibian, “What if I put him to my head/ and squeezed it out of him?” His more recent work is often death-haunted; its muses are maggots and turkey buzzards, and one poem’s refrain is literally “Too late.” But Muldoon leavens this morbidity with self-awareness and volubility, with the sincere wonder of the cosmopolitan. As he writes in “Cuthbert and the Otters,” his strange, moving requiem for Seamus Heaney, “The Benedictines still love a bit of banter/ along with the Beatitudes.” Equal parts bar crawl and blessing, formal adventure and shaggy dog, Muldoon’s work looks both backward and forward and finds new ways to rhyme them. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/21/2016
Release date: 11/22/2016
Genre: Fiction
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