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Hay: Poems Paperback – September 10, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Though Paul Muldoon's voice is thoroughly his own, a taste for turbulent rhythms and fantastical journeys firmly links him with some of our finest poets, most notably Coleridge. In "The Mud Room," the start of this stunning collection, the speaker juxtaposes wildly dissimilar images--Pharaohs and Kikkoman soy sauce, Virgil's Georgics and "cardboard boxes from K-Mart," ziggurats and six-packs. Why? Because in piecing together the whole of our collective human past--the past of Jackson Browne's "The Pretender" on the same page as the past of Epicurus--Muldoon casts a vote for inclusion, a vote against exclusivity and relegation. He travels far to show such close relations. Rather than focus on differences, we're forced to consider a resemblance between rock stars and Pharaohs, and in turn a grander likeness that joins us all.

But in drawing together common connective strands of history, culture, and emotion, Muldoon is anything but general. His language is highly original and searching. He doesn't merely sniff dispassionately at the "otherness" of words; like an excited hound that has discovered the scent of another animal, he rolls vigorously in it--and makes it his own:

So a harum-scarum
bushman, hey, would slash one forearm
with a flint, ho, or a sliver of steel
till it flashed, hey ho, like a hel-

These poems resonate with an easy coexistence of the ordinary and the exotic. Whether he's penning rhymed haiku (rhymed haiku?) about placid farm life ("None more dishevelled / than those who seemed most demure. / Our rag-weed revels") or quatrains about Cracow ("Into the Vistula swollen with rain / you and I might have plunged and found a way / to beat out the black grain / as our forefathers did on threshing day"), Muldoon's words gleam like jewels unearthed from everyday mud. --Martha Silano --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

More than two decades ago, Seamus Heaney wrote of his former student Paul Muldoon that his "hermetic tendency" can lead him "into puzzles rather than poems." Since then, Muldoon has evolved into a kind of anti-Heaney, creating poetic puzzles of daunting erudition and fascinating complexity, while sharpening his teacher's capacious humor into a dazzling wit. If Northern Irish poets are expected to write Wordsworthian lyric verse about their rural childhoods, Muldoon instead composes allusively postmodern, cosmopolitan poetry. Having won Britain's prestigious T.S. Eliot prize for his last collection, The Annals of Chile, Muldoon (who teaches at Princeton) here continues to amaze and bewilder readers in equal measure with his bravura. "Errata" consists entirely?in the spirit of Nabokov's Pale Fire?of a proofreader's corrections to a faulty set of galleys: "For 'Steinbeck' read 'Steenbeck.'/ For 'ludic' read 'lucid.'" Not all of Hay is so stylistically showy. "Anonymous: Myself and Pangur" is a faithful translation of an utterly charming 9th-century Irish poem drawing parallels between the craft of the scholar-poet and his white cat: "Pangur going in for the kill/ with all his customary skill/ while I, sharp-witted, swift, and sure,/ shed light on what had been obscure." And striking a more demotic note is Muldoon's verse cycle on a series of favorite rock albums, from the Rolling Stones to Nirvana, no less exuberant. As much at home in mainstream pop culture as in the obscure corners of the literary tradition, sharp-witted Muldoon both parodies and honors with panache.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374526192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374526191
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,786,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Zeke Camden on August 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Is it possible for one person to be the best American poet and the best Irish poet at the same time? Muldoon certainly lays a strong claim to both titles: his Irishness lends him a musicality far superior to that achieved by most contemporary Americans, while his American side is the source of a far-ranging brashness, an ambition, scope and post- modern adventurousness that makes many Irish poets look rather, well, staid. "Hay" is a brave and experimental volume, more Byronic than ironic (though there's plenty of both) that takes place in a mostly domestic setting. As Muldoon wanders around his house and neighborhood and reports on what passes before his eyes and through his mind, the reader is treated to a wild and ceaseless cinematic display that is at times violent, at times kooky, not infrequently nostalgic, and often reminiscent of of Borges, Rilke, or Berryman (not to mention Kurosawa, Kubrick, and Scorsese.) "Long Finish" probably is the most moving piece here, one of the best love poems of the last ten or twenty years, while "The Bangle, Slight Return" is is an intriguing crossword slash jigsaw puzzle that promises boundless entertainment and befuddlement. This book should be sold in airports, distributed free to hotel rooms . . . it's groovy, baby!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. R. Segrist on November 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the opportunity of hearing a reading by Paul Muldoon last spring and this semester I'm taking a writing of poetry class. I had to do a presentation on a living poet and I picked up one of his latest collections and it's like the title of this review, delightful. There are so many different styles of eccentric poems in this one collection and some that contain such obscure literary references that it invokes a sense of bewilderment and leads to a trail of website-hunting to figure out what he's talking about. But it's okay, because many of the poems can be enjoyed at face value, but if you want to dig deeper you can. He's one dang clever guy and this collection is definitely enjoyable.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By david staniunas on July 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The poems of _Hay_, apart from being a comprehensive catalogue of poetic forms -- each with Muldoon's characteristic out-Byroning of Byron -- contain moments when coy formal play is no longer a barrier to sense, but which make Muldoon's meaning more poignant. One realizes that his words _feel_; they are not, however, fraught with meaning, nor are they wound up in the easy melodrama of "the Troubles," of childrearing, or of being middle-aged. His aural and visual twists and tricks exist not as their own purpose, but to define the beautiful and chaotic moments of the poet's recent life, and to tie it, by assonance perhaps, to ours. Read and memorize "Long Finish" for the good of your psyche.
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