Irish Voices: A Reading and Conversation with Paul Muldoon
On Thursday, April 18, with Monday’s Boston marathon tragedy still weighing heavy on people’s minds, over 100 poetry lovers gathered for the penultimate event in our “Irish Voices” series: a reading and conversation with Paul Muldoon. Muldoon’s visit was funded in part by a grant to the Center for the Study of Europe from the European Commission Delegation in Washington DC. The event was co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, the literary journal AGNI, the Department of Creative Writing, and the new Institute for the Study of Irish Culture at Boston University. Meg Tyler, Director of the new Institute, opened the event, and following and performance by Step about Boston, BU’s Irish step dancing group, Joe Rezek, Assistant Professor of English, introduced moderator Dan Chiasson, who in turn introduced Muldoon, calling him “the crucial English language poet born since 1950, without whom nothing.” Chiasson described in some detail his own encounter with Muldoon’s work at the age of 17, his fascination with Muldoon’s “feats of association,” in particular, as evinced in the poem “7, Middagh Street,” from which he read the following passage.
Both beautiful, one a gazebo.
When Hart Crane fell
from the Orizaba
it was into the trou normand of the well
at Carickfergus Castle.
All very Ovidian,
as the ghostly
once remarked of both sorts of kipper
we were forced to eat
every night in Reykjavik;
one tasted of toe-nails, one of the thick
skin on the soles of the feet.
He now affects an ulster lined with coypu
and sashays like an albino rabbit
down the same Fifth Avenue
where Avida Dollars
once squired an ocelot
on a solid
gold chain snaffled from Bonwit Teller’s.
It seems that Scott Fitzgerald wrote Ivanhoe
or the Rubaiyat
and Chester Kallman = Agape.
The passage, Chiasson said, laid out for him at the age of seventeen a formidable curriculum: Yeats and Crane and Beowulf and Louise Macneice and Brooklyn and Iceland and Calvados – all of it would have to be sampled.
Addressing Muldoon’s turn to rock lyrics in a new volume entitled The Word on the Street, Chiasson had the following to say: “Muldoon has been writing poems with the vigor and swagger of rock lyrics for so long it was only a matter of time before he would publish a volume of rock lyrics that work as great poems.” He went on to plug Muldoon’s band, The Wayside Shrines.
Following Chiasson’s introduction, Muldoon took the stage and read a number of poems, including “Dancers at the Moy,” “The Loaf,” and “Hedgehog,” and several song lyrics, notably “Come Back,” “It won’t Ring True,” “Elephant Anthem,” and “Cleaning Up My Act.” Addressing the elegiac tone hanging over Boston, he read a poem called “Turkey Buzzards,” written in the aftermath of his sister’s death from cancer eight years earlier.
Topics addressed during the conversation ranged from Muldoon’s understanding of relationship between poems and song lyrics to his sense of himself as an “Irish” poet. View the entire event on BUniverse.
We concluded the Irish Voices series this evening, with a lecture by Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan on “The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy” [Listen to Coogan’s lecture on WBUR].