A poet. A rock musician. A professor. An Irishman. Paul Muldoon brought all these elements of himself to life when he took the floor in Golden Auditorium. A true renaissance man, Muldoon spent last Thursday afternoon reading a variety of poems, some expressing patriotism for his homeland, Ireland, and some, befitting Valentine’s Day, about love. Students and professors alike sat on the edge of their seats to catch every word, for though he spoke softly and with a great European delicacy, his words were powerful and memorable.
Muldoon’s ability to interact with his audience turned a simple poetry reading into a playful and humor-filled experience. Part comedian, part intellectual, the Irishman shared his opinions on the “junk business” of antiques, the stereotypes given to his countrymen, and his influences and inspirations as a poet and musician. Between his wispy puff of graying rock star hair, his subtle sarcasm and his personal anecdotes, Muldoon proved to be every bit the eccentric man some of his poems make him out to be.
One poem in particular, “Symposium,” both captivated and entertained the audience. The poem itself was a concoction and scramble of common proverbs cut up, mixed around and put back together to create a wonderful effect.
“One good turn deserves a bird in the hand. A bird in the hand is better than no bread,” Muldoon said in the poem.
As the 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner, The New Yorker poetry editor, the Howard G.B. Clark Professor at Princeton University and the poet the Times Literary Supplement called “the most significant English-language poet born since the Second World War,” Muldoon stands out as one of the most distinguished writers that has come to Colgate. Head of the English Department Jane Pinchin considers it a “privilege” to have a man of such talent come to share his work with the Colgate community.
Colgate’s Creative Writing Fellow Eduardo Corral was also full of praise for Muldoon’s work.
“I think his greatest strength as a poet is his ear,” Corral said. “Wordplay, unexpected rhymes and high and low diction come together in his poems to create a surprising and powerful music.”
Pinchin also believes that as poetry editor of The New Yorker, Muldoon, “will determine much of what a general public knows of contemporary poetry.” This is a good sign for aspiring contemporary poets, as Muldoon admits to being open to the varying forms of poetry.
“There is no right way to write a poem,” Muldoon said.
Muldoon proved not only to be a fantastic writer, but also to have a way with words while on his feet. He described one refrain in a poem of his as “on the cusp between sense and nonsense.”
Towards the end of his reading, Muldoon also shared another reason for his love of poetry.
“One of the great things about writing poetry is that one can create alternative lives for oneself,” Muldoon said.