Hay

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

From the time his first book of poetry, NEW WEATHER (1973), was published while he was still a student at Queens University, Belfast, Paul Muldoon’s dazzling technical skill, verbal invention and off-beat wit have impressed critics like Michael Hofmann, who wrote that “he began as a prodigy and has gone on to become a virtuoso.” HAY, arguably his finest achievement yet, combines the cultural heritage and command of craft that has been evident in his work from the start, with a deeply personal, very contemporary vision that displays his remarkable erudition and his continuing fascination with the nuances, peculiarities, and myriad idiosyncracies of the English language.

Muldoon is particularly fond of the way in which words and ideas suggest other words and ideas in an associative pattern that extends through a poem, and often through a sequence of poems. The play of his mind—the connections he makes, the links he establishes, the flow of thought—maintains a high energy level in his work which keeps it interesting even when he is using esoteric references and allusions which may be difficult for the reader to fully follow. Yet in spite of his obvious erudition, Muldoon grounds his work in the type of individual experience and immediacy that resonates with a kind of universality beyond its local setting or sometimes obscure literary connections.

While his early life in County Tyrone, Ulster, informs the poems that respond to the three...

(The entire section is 412 words.)