(Poetry for Students)

Paul Muldoon’s “Pineapples and Pomegranates” was first published in his collection Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), which won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 2003. Muldoon’s poem recalls the speaker’s first encounter with a pineapple, as a thirteen-year-old boy growing up in Northern Ireland. The speaker muses on the pineapple’s significance as a symbol of generosity or “munificence.” The speaker then comments on the difference between “munificence” and “munitions” and expresses a wish for peace somewhere on the planet. The poem concludes with the speaker’s assertion that he is talking about pineapples and not pomegranates. Muldoon dedicated the poem to the memory of Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, who died in 2000.

Although the poem is partly about the difference between two fruits, it also alludes to the ongoing conflicts in Muldoon’s native country of Northern Ireland and in Amichai’s home of Israel. Like other Muldoon poems, “Pineapples and Pomegranates” addresses the slippery quality of language, as well as the elusive nature of peace. In this poem, Muldoon also employs a deft and unique use of rhyme, word-shifting, and repetition to emphasize his themes. The fourteen-line poem can also be considered a version of the sonnet.


(Poetry for Students)

Lines 1–2

Muldoon begins “Pineapples and Pomegranates” as a personal anecdote or story by recalling the speaker’s first encounter with a pineapple, at the age of thirteen. The poet emphasizes the sense of touch in recalling this experience as he writes, “I would grapple / with my first pineapple.” These two lines establish the pattern of rhyming the last words of every two lines, as in the full rhyme of “grapple” with “pineapple.” Throughout the poem, Muldoon continues to use rhymed couplets, rhyming every two lines.

Lines 3–4

In the next two lines, the speaker further describes his memory of the pineapple, noting, “its exposed breast / setting itself as another test.” The metaphor in line 3 personifies the fruit by likening the pineapple to a female body part. By describing the pineapple in this way, Muldoon emphasizes the fruit’s exoticness and its seductive qualities. In these lines, Muldoon uses the exact end-rhyme of “breast” and “test.”

Lines 5–6

In lines 5 and 6, the idea of the pineapple as an object of temptation is further reinforced, as the speaker explicitly states that the pineapple is a test “of my willpower.” However, the speaker also notes that even then he knew “that it stood for something other than itself alone.” This quality of standing for something else seems to add to the pineapple’s mystery for the boy. This line also begins the speaker’s musings on things other than the pure memory of the pineapple.

Lines 7–8

In these two lines, the speaker claims that he had “absolutely no sense / of its being a worldwide symbol of munificence.” Muldoon overtly points out the pineapple’s function as a symbol of munificence, or generosity, while contrasting this adult awareness with his former naiveté. By using the word “symbol,” Muldoon also emphasizes the speaker’s position not only as an adult, but as a literary person and, presumably, a poet.

Notably, in line 8, Muldoon also finally concludes the sentence he began at the start of the poem. The length of this sentence creates a sense of fluidity, reflecting the speaker’s free associations from the initial recollection of an adolescent experience. In running the sentence across the first seven lines, Muldoon uses enjambment, rather than stopping sentences where the lines end. This long sentence also makes up the first eight lines of the poem, which form an octave. Traditional sonnets often begin with an octave that establishes a...

(The entire section is 1064 words.)