cover image The Annals of Chile

The Annals of Chile

Paul Muldoon. Farrar Straus Giroux, $21 (189pp) ISBN 978-0-374-10518-1

The core of Muldoon's (Madoc: A Mystery) latest collection is the rambunctiously imaginative long poem ``Yarrow,'' which offers, among three-dozen other thematic preoccupations, a lover's search for a ``pugilist-poet.'' In the poem, Muldoon sees himself as the leading contender-and in the boxing ring of contemporary poetry, the metaphor works nicely, as well. This writer is a heavyweight with a subtle, lightning touch. Erudite and witty, he's the Cassius Clay of poetic craft. ``Yarrow,'' for example, recaptures the hedonism of the '60s via a super-literary protagonist and his enclave of smart, wickedly dissipated friends. The loose narrative of their adventures is also inhabited by figures from antiquity, medieval England, Cold-War American pop culture and so on. As is customary with Muldoon, the ride is both harrowing and exuberant. His facility with verse improves with each book, and the streak continues here. A minor beef: the Irish-born poet is becoming almost too dense and whimsical. Still, Annals will fatten his reputation on this side of the Atlantic. (Oct.)