The first my friend told me about Paul Muldoon was that he has a glorious head of hair, that he makes quite an impression in any room he’s put into, and that he is outstanding and great craic to watch and listen to.
Michael H. Miller from The New York Observer put it that way: Paul Muldoon is one of the great readers alive today. His voice alters with every change in tone and he’ll often pace around a room, his whole body responding to his intricate rhythms.
So much for saying it all in one short sentence, all the other important and official stuff about Muldoon you can google or read in the Dock’s What’s-on-Guide and I assure you it makes for splendid reading!
Before the summer I took one of the morning classes in the Dock, “Understanding Contemporary Poetry”, we unravelled a couple of Muldoon’s poems, and after an initial resistance something just clicked and fell into place for me. (and by the way, this is the right moment to say, lets hope that Alice Lyons will run more of her poetry classes! A great teacher, she makes it easy to be inspired and to look at poetry in a whole new manner. So yeah Alice, if you ever read this, please go on, I am sure some other crowd will agree!)
Anyway, we unpacked his poem “The Loaf”, which I initially just did not like, and it is amazing what you can discover when you look at a poem as a group of people!
I give you a couple of hints before the poem; certainly found them useful myself!
The Irish built the canals for the Raritan and Delaware Rivers in New Jersey, it was basically a terrible job on very little pay, lots of them died due to hard labour and hunger or starvation. If I remember it right Muldoon’s apartment overlooked one of those canals to evoke that particular detail of Irish history in him.
Those italic lines that end on an –ick are built like a sea shanty; probably deliberate as to refer to the Irish navies and their history; a shanty has always been a kind of song that workers/ slaves sang/ sing during their back-breaking work.
LICK in the very last line might refer to lick = hard work, as you find it in a dictionary, which was a new one for me too.
That’s the clues, now the poem; let me know what you make of it!
When I put my finger to the hole they’ve cut for a dimmer switch
in a wall of plaster stiffened with horsehair
it seems I’ve scratched a two-hundred-year-old itch
with a pink and a pink and a pinkie-pick.
When I put my ear to the hole I’m suddenly aware
of spades and shovels turning up the gain
all the way from Raritan to the Delaware
with a clink and a clink and a clinkie-click.
When I put my nose to the hole I smell the floodplain
of the canal after a hurricane
and the spots of green grass where thousands of Irish have lain
with a stink and a stink and a stinkie-stick.
When I put my eye to the hole I see one holding horse dung to the rain
in the hope, indeed, indeed,
of washing out a few whole ears of grain
with a wink and a wink and a winkie-wick.
And when I do at last succeed
in putting my mouth to the horsehair-fringed niche
I can taste the small loaf of bread he baked from that whole seed
with a link and a link and a linkie-lick.
From Moy Sand and Gravel by Paul Muldoon published by Farrar, Straus, Giroux 2002
Now you finally get to see him read it, I hope some of you get inspired to check him out and come along to his Poetry Reading in the galleries this Saturday 27th August at 2pm.
Ah, the new press release is just in, just in time for my blog, (thank you Claire from The Dock)!
So at 12.30 on the morning of the reading, Poet and Curator for The Dock, above mentioned Alice Lyons will lead a ‘preshow talk’ that will offer an introduction to the work of Paul Muldoon in a friendly and informal atmosphere. Those attending the reading are highly encouraged to take part. That to me seems like a well-rounded event at this stage!
I’ll be certainly going to see and hear for myself, so I might see you there!
Tickets are 10Euro, including the Preshow talk and are available at the box office in The Dock on 071 96 508 28, so business as usual…
Looking forward to Saturday,
Your Dock Blogger