Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
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.
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Paul Muldoon was raised in a Catholic household in Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland in the townland of Collegelands near the village of Moy. His father, Patrick, was a laborer and a market gardener, and his mother, Brigid (neé Regan), was a schoolteacher. This is the “mixed marriage” that Muldoon discusses in an early poem of the same title. He attended grammar school at St. Patrick’s College in Armagh and there studied Gaelic language, literature, and song. At St. Patrick’s he also studied English literature. He began to write poetry in Irish but soon switched to English because of his better command of the language. Muldoon eventually sent poems to Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon, two well-known Irish poets, and Heaney published a few in Thresholds.
Muldoon’s association with Heaney and other prominent Irish poets continued. His tutor at Queen’s University in Belfast, where he studied Celtic language and literature and Scholastic philosophy as well as English literature, was Heaney. Muldoon studied under Heaney and attended weekly poetry gatherings in Heaney’s home. The group included the Ulster poets Mahon and Michael Longley, the critic Michael Allen, and other young poets. It served as a critical forum, and Muldoon asserts it was quite beneficial. Indeed, these gatherings may have laid the foundation for a poet whose work has evolved from finding significance in the simple to being simple yet significant.
Muldoon’s collection New Weather appeared the year he obtained his B.A. and was published under Heaney’s shadow. Many critics, when it was released, contended that Muldoon was simply a younger Heaney. For example, in “Wind and Tree,” what seems a casual observation actually embodies more significance:
In the way that the most of the wind Happens where there are trees, Most of the world is centered About ourselves.
Noted critic Edna Longley discusses how a moral and psychological condition reflected through the landscape is a mark of Ulster poets, but Muldoon takes this device in a different direction from that typical of Heaney. In comparison to Heaney’s elemental analogies, Muldoon’s metaphors...
(The entire section is 970 words.)