Paul Muldoon

Portrait Paul Muldoon
© Hartwig Klappert

The poet Paul Muldoon was born in Portadown, County Armagh, Northern Ireland in 1951 and grew up in the rural region of the Moy. He studied English language and literature at Queen’s University in Belfast, where he later worked for the BBC, pr oducing mostly radio broadcasts before moving on to television. From the very first volume of poems, »New Weather« (1973) he was hailed as a poet of note and was frequently compared to the Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney, whose student he was. Following a period as Writer in Residency at the University of Cambridge, Muldoon moved to the USA in 1987, where he has lived ever since, teaching at Columbia University and Princeton. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1999 to 2004. The lectures he gave there on the art of poetry were published under the ambiguous title »The End of the Poem« (2006). The lucid, playful, horizon-broadening analyses of poems from the last two centuries also pr ovide a glimpse into Muldoon’s own aesthetic means of pr oduction. By way of close reading, the author isolates individual strands within the fabric of the text and follows them in the different linguistic, literary, historical and theoretical contexts to which they refer. Plurality of meaning, sounds and echoes, etymology and wordplay all become the means through which the power of language gets visible beyond its functionality. »We may use language as a tool, or we may be used by language. And I think that’s the distinction. But even if one’s using it as a tool, I think every one has had the experience of being used by it.«
Among Muldoon’s lasting influences are the pr ecursors to Modernism T.S. Eliot and Robert Frost, and the Metaphysical Poets (especially John Donne). Muldoon took up their stylistic devices with brilliant ease, as he accommodated himself to traditional poetic forms including the sonnet. He has again and again published long poems, among them »Madoc: A Mystery« (1990), considered his masterpiece. It pr esents a plan dreamt up by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey to found a Utopian society in America as an actual historical experiment. In 2006, the collection »Horse Latitudes« has appeared, the most recent of nearly thirty books of poetry. Muldoon has also published essays, children’s books, plays, opera libretti and has worked as an anthology editor and translator (i.e. of Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill and Aristophanes).
Muldoon is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the American Academy of Fine Arts and Sciences. Among his awards are the T.S. Eliot Prize, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, the Irish Times Poetry Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and the Shakespeare Prize. He currently teaches at the University of Princeton and lives with his family in New Jersey.

© international literature festival berlin