Paul Muldoon - Biography and Works

Paul Muldoon is an Irish poet, who went to live in England and shifted later to America. He was influenced by Robert Frost’s 'strong, classic, lyric line' in style, but he continued to write about his own Irish experience. He also adopted the cinematic techniques of presenting flashes and fragments of events in his narrative poems.

Paul Muldoon (Born in 1951)

Born in Northern Ireland to a family whose father was a farm worker and his mother was a schoolmistress. He learnt to love books from his mother’s gentle influences. Living in small “enclave” of Roman Catholics, in a large area of Protestants, he found his childhood rather limited to the company and influences of his parents. He represents the Catholic Church unsympathetically, going to the extent of saying that “there is a thin line between organized religion and organized crime”! He was tutored by such poets as Seamus Heaney and other poets of the Belfast Group.

He worked for some time as a producer in BBC radio and television. When he moved to the United States, he became a freelance writer. He currently teaches at Princeton University. Paul Muldoon is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary poets. His short lyrics, modified sonnets and ballads, and dramatic monologues touch on themes of love, maturation, and self-discovery, as well as Irish culture and history. Terse and highly original, Muldoon’s poetry is noted for its multiplicity of meaning. His works reveal a “quirky, off-beats talent for sudden revelatory flights from mundane consequences. Williams Pratt concluded that for those readers “who enjoy having a leg pulled, Muldoon is your Man.” When he is at this most original, Muldoon is rather a kind of acrobat, piling up strange rhymes, references, and conceits in a way that is disorienting. Muldoon is the rare poet who writes through the looking glass.” When the majority of poets are trivially self-expressive and the minorities with higher ambitions pursue a formless complexity, Muldoon’s ability to construct his poems is rare, and admirable. He wrote lots of poems as a teenager, many of them heavily under the influence of T.S. Eliot, who seemed to make him a marvelous person. Muldoon creates poetry form snippets and allusions, mixing TV jargon with ancient Gaelic and classical references, and then running them all through his consciousness several times until they blend into something between primeval chant and the sonic background to rap records.

Muldoon was influenced by a generation of poets that was led by Seamus Heaney in the 1970s, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995. Irish history and identity, matters of gender, and the relationship between poet and community are common themes of this generation of poets. Muldoon followed the footsteps of these poets called the “Belfast Group”, but shifted to America later on. Muldoon’s early poems were in Irish, and though he switched to English, Irish words and phrases continue to appear in his poems. In terms of subject matter, “America began to loom large in his imagination”. Muldoon inserts mythological and fictional characters into his narrative. The whole array of images is fit into a kaleidoscopic pattern that is at once moving, musically satisfying, and a brilliant postmodern variation on the ancient poetic form of villanelle.

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Sharma, Kedar N. "Paul Muldoon - Biography and Works." BachelorandMaster, 15 Nov. 2013,

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