Paul Muldoon was born on June 20, 1951, in the remote rural community of The Fews, County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Shortly afterward, his family moved to the no less remote area of The Moy, County Tyrone. The poet, therefore, comes from a background that is similar in many external respects to those of Northern Ireland poets such as Seamus Heaney and John Montague, who have done much to put that part of the world on the literary map. This point is relevant because Muldoon’s response to his background is very different from that of his illustrious near-contemporaries.
After secondary education at St. Patrick’s College, Armagh, Muldoon read English at Queen’s University, Belfast, and was graduated with a B.A. in 1971. Like many writers from Northern Ireland, particularly those of an older generation, he worked as a talks producer for the Northern Ireland regional service of the British Broadcasting Corporation in Belfast. He resigned this position in 1986 and began working as a visiting professor in a number of American universities. He has taught at Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Massachusetts, and in 1990, he began teaching at Princeton University. In 1993, he became director and founding chair of creative writing at Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts. In 1999, he was elected professor of poetry at Oxford, succeeding James Fenton in this five-year honorary appointment, and he continues at Oxford as fellow of Hertford College. At Princeton, he was elected to the Howard G. B. Clark ’21 Professorship and became involved with academic administration as well as teaching. He is a professor emeritus at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. He has taught on the summer Bread Loaf program of creative writing. In 2007, he became poetry editor for The New Yorker.
In his private life, his first marriage to Anne-Marie Conway, an Irish woman, broke up in 1979. After an affair with Mary Ann Powers came to an end with her death, he married the American novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz, a Jewish woman, by whom he has had two children, Dorothy and Asher. The family settled in New Jersey near Princeton. As a hobby, he joined a rock band, Rackett, and has been writing lyrics for its songs.