Poet Paul Muldoon and his methods of work


The following audio clip from Poetry in Person:25 Years of Conversation with America's Poets (Knopf, 2010) represents poet Paul Muldoon speaking about methods of work.  In it, among observations about how "shape is made in the world," he refers to the importance of revision.  Or lack of it, in his case.  Interestingly, he says that for him revision is "the exception, not the rule," of his working state.  Compare that to fellow Irishman James Joyce, who could spend weeks on a sentence, not necessarily creating new words but famously tinkering with their order.  Which perhaps explains how Finnegans Wake took 17 years to complete.  Muldoon's absence of the revisionist's compulsion has allowed his to become one of the most productive and important poets of our generation.

Born in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, Muldoon published his first book of poems, New Weather, (1973) when he was just 21 years old. It immediately caught the attention of Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney. In 1995, he was still seven years away from the Pulitzer Prize when he visited Pearl London's class in New York. He brought along with him 13 draft pages of his poem "Cows," from his volume The Annals of Chile. It was a book that caught all of his most recognizable traits: word lists and wordplay, breaks of form, wit, shifting technique and the widest net among all poets for the sounds and catchphrases of other poems, other poets.

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