In his eleventh full-length collection, Paul Muldoon reminds us that he is a traditional poet who is steadfastly at odds with tradition. If the poetic sequence is the main mode of Maggot, it certainly isn't your father's poetic sequence. Taking as a starting point W.B. Yeats' remark that the only fit topics for a serious mood are 'sex and the dead ...
In his eleventh full-length collection, Paul Muldoon reminds us that he is a traditional poet who is steadfastly at odds with tradition. If the poetic sequence is the main mode of Maggot, it certainly isn't your father's poetic sequence. Taking as a starting point W.B. Yeats' remark that the only fit topics for a serious mood are 'sex and the dead', Muldoon finds unexpected ways of thinking and feeling about what it means to come to terms with the early twenty-first century. It's no accident that the centerpiece of "Maggot" is an outlandish meditation on a failed poem that draws on the vocabulary of entomological forensics. The last series of linked lyrics, meanwhile, takes as its 'subject' the urge to memorialize the scenes of fatal car accidents. The extravagant linkage of rot and the erotic is at the heart of not only the title-sequence but many of the round-songs that characterize "Maggot" and has led Angela Leighton, writing in the TLS, to see these new poems (on their earlier appearance in Plan B, an interim volume which included several of the poems in "Maggot") as giving readers 'a thrilling, wild, fairground ride, with few let-ups for the squeamish'.
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Publishers Weekly, 2010-06-28 Raised in Northern Ireland and long resident in New Jersey, Muldoon (Horse Latitudes) remains one of very few poets who commands broad and deep respect on both sides of the Atlantic. This first full-length outing since he took the poetry editorship at the New Yorker will certainly hold the attention of devotees, and individual poems, as always, shine: sestinas, monorhymed works and especially sonnets (including a fine translation of Baudelaire's "The Albatross" and a diptych entitled "Nope" and "Yup") make Muldoon's acrobatic technique serve his strikingly playful-yet grim-sensibility. As he has throughout his career, the poet explores his "dual role/ as proven escape artist and proven identity switcher": domestic discord, ecodisaster, and the simple fear of death compete to propel these sometimes frightening lines. Yet fans who have defended Muldoon against accusations of frivolity, of complexity for complexity's sake, may have a hard time defending his latest work. Shaggy-dog stories, sequences driven by repetitions, and meta-meta-poetry ("Far too late to inquire/ why a poem had taken a wrong turn") predominate, while the strongest work conveys a barely deflected despair about art itself: "I'm waiting for some lover/ to kick me out of bed," one sonnet muses, "for having acted on a whim// after I've completely lost the thread." (Sept.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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