Thursday, October 29, 2009

Paul Muldoon Reading

Last night, I went to a reading at Notre Dame given by Paul Muldoon. Muldoon, an Irish poet, is an extremely important literary figure. He's won dozens of awards, and he currently serves as the poetry editor for The New Yorker. I like Paul Muldoon - his poems show a love of language and people and places - but he's never been one of my favorites. For some reason, his poems have never caught me the way other poets' have. But that didn't matter last night. Because for an hour, he had me completely captivated. He was funny, rambling, and had that crazy writer look, complete with messy hair and tweed jacket. The man obviously loves poetry and the world it comes from, and it was his love for his work that proved infectious. He spent more time talking about the background for his poems than he actually spent reading them, but that wasn't a problem. I could have sat there and listened to his Irish accent telling me about the history of horse hair used as housing material for hours.

So instead of a Favorite Passage today, I thought I would post my favorite poem Muldoon read last night. He told a charming story about the poem's background, and his love for the people in the piece really came out in full force. If you pay close attention while reading, you'll find some surprising rhyme and sound going on. Enjoy!

The Sightseers, by Paul Muldoon

My father and mother, my brother and sister
and I, with uncle Pat, our dour best-loved uncle,
had set out that Sunday afternoon in July
in his broken-down Ford

not to visit some graveyard - one died of shingles,
one of fever, another's knees turned to jelly -
but the brand new round-about at Ballygawley,
the first in mid-Ulster.

Uncle Pat was telling us how the B-specials
had stopped him one night somewhere near Ballygawley
and smashed his bicycle

and made him sing the Sash and curse the Pope of Rome.
They held a pistol so hard against his forehead
that there was still the mark of an O when he got home.

Note: On Saturday, you can expect a Halloween-related post for the holiday. Also, I just bought Anne Carson's Men in the Off Hours, which I am really excited to read. Carson mixes prose (particularly the essay form) and poetry in really interesting ways, and as a former classicist, her stuff is super-intellectual. This book has essays about Sappho and Virginia Woolf and poems about Tolstoy and Anna Ahkmatova, and it will probably be the "smartest" thing I've read in quite some time. I'm really looking forward to it!

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