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HAY by Paul Muldoon


by Paul Muldoon

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-16831-8
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Irish-born Princeton professor dazzles the ear with his eighth book of verse; full of inventive rhyme and repetitions, and seamless meters, Muldoon’s work resembles the monk of his poem —Anonymous—: ’sharp-witted, swift, and sure.— A linguistic voluptuary, Muldoon sometimes leaves readers behind with his gestures to Apollinaire, and his dense Joycean patter; but his best poems ground his visionary sensibility in everyday observation: —The Mudroom— and two poems titled —The Bangle,— in particular, rely on a collage of imagery and idiom, from Yiddish slang, Asian clarity, and classical allusion to the common items found in a mudroom (hubcap, extra fridge, soft drinks). Muldoon’s playful wit supports one virtuoso piece after another: a bit on the famous Siamese twins, Chang and Eng (—Lag—); a mess of fractured aphorisms and proverbs (—Symposium—), and a versified errata sheet. Less successful are his calligrammes (and other visual jokes), as well as a long sequence inspired by rock records—a forced set of personal liner notes recounting memories associated with particular albums. The ninety rhymed haiku of —Hopewell Haiku— are wonderfully anecdotal and properly spare—Muldoon holds his expansive humor in check. Throughout here, he plays on his name and returns to the simple image of his title: the one thing he knows with certainty. When he eschews cleverness for its own sake, Muldoon enlists his considerable technical skill in undermining his own conceits: he’s clearly a major young poet in any case.