cover image Plan B

Plan B

Paul Muldoon, , photos. by Norman McBeath. . Enitharmon, $32.95 (63pp) ISBN 978-1-904634-82-9

The world-famous Irish poet's latest volume is a collaboration with the talented Scottish photographer McBeath, whose black-and-white images (an upright piano rotting in a meadow, an empty sofa, a stone doorway) suit the bitter, brilliant ironies in Muldoon's new poems. In the title sequence, “the KGB garotte/ might well be a refinement of the Scythian torc”; a later poem set at an office “Christmas party” begins, “They're poisoning the atmosphere/ now you and I've split.” The violent, almost acrid mood in these nonetheless witty and nimble poems looks back both to Muldoon's Horse Latitudes (2006) and to his similarly disillusioned poems of the early 1980s, especially Quoof (1984), arranged (as here) into short rhyming stanzas or else into sonnets, and focused (as here) on marital and extramarital disarray. Phrases from headline news apply, uncomfortably enough, to domestic trouble: “Extraordinary Rendition,” a pair of sonnets, concludes with a vacation gone badly wrong, “two tin plates and mugs in the shack” and “echoes of love-sighs/ and love-screams/ our canyon walls had already given back.” Muldoon often publishes short collections, almost chapbooks, in preparation for longer ones: this “Muldoodle,” as they are nicknamed, will shock and delight and whet transatlantic appetites. (Nov.)