cover image Madoc: A Mystery

Madoc: A Mystery

Paul Muldoon. Farrar Straus Giroux, $19.95 (261pp) ISBN 978-0-374-19557-1

In ruggedly lyric segments joined in quasi-narrative style, Irish poet Muldoon--now teaching at Princeton--vigorously reinvests America's frontier wilderness with British and Celtic shenanigans. The Tudor myth informing this invigorating invention is that of Madoc, a Welsh, hotheaded adventurer prince said to have discovered America in the 12th century and begotten the ``Welch Indians.'' The Northwest Madoc tribes, appearing in the poem, were once considered proof. And Thomas Jefferson quaffs Medoc, puns Muldoon, who titles each piece of the preponderant Part II with the name of a famed thinker (e.g., Thales, Diderot, Marx) from antiquity to the present. Under such dignified rubrics the main characters, poets Coleridge and Southey (himself author of a Madoc , a romantic verse epic), cavort with feathered Indians. (The actual emigration scheme of both poets to create a commune or ``Pantisocracy'' in America failed to materialize.) Included are passages from explorers Lewis and Clark, to avoid ambiguity painter and ethnographer George Catlin and poet Byron. The brief introductory ``Part I,'' in a contemporary mode, includes images of containers bobbing in the water--a bathyscope, tea chests, a briefcase. The valise and ``portmanteau'' images resurface often to suggest current poetic forms as envelopes of the past. (Apr.)