Paul Muldoon’s quirky, mad-scientist appearance with large gray hair and glasses exemplifies his ability to formulate his own award-winning writing style.
Last Thursday evening, the Northern Irish poet and Pulitzer Prize winner, Muldoon, spoke in Dolan Auditorium.
“[He] has been called, by the [London] Times Literary Supplement, ‘the most important writer in English born after the Second World War.’ So he seemed like a good choice,” said George Bilgere, a professor in John Carroll’s English Department, in his opening remarks.
Bilgere said that the Department of English concluded, “He has a wonderful ear for the richness and beauty of the English language. And, of course, there’s a great tradition of remarkable Irish writers before him: Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Joyce, Yeats and on and on. It’s amazing that such a small country has produced so many major writers.”
Alumni, faculty, students and the community filled Dolan Auditorium to near capacity to listen to Muldoon’s inspiration and poetry.
“I was going in not knowing what to expect,” said freshman Nick Wojtasik. “He had a good balance of some seriousness and some humorous nonsense in his poerty which, combined with a relaxed atmosphere, made for a quite enjoyable time.”
Muldoon began the event on a personal note with a poem about the birth of his daughter, Dorothy. Even as an internationally-known writer, he revealed there are more important things than his literary career. “However corny it sounds for myself, and actually for my children, much more important than anything else is for my children to like me. Seriously, that is something I would like.”
Muldoon incorporated the audience by having them recite refrains from his poems such as, “with a click, and a click, and a clicky click” and other variations of this.
Dave Lucas, a 2002 John Carroll graduate, said, “I was even glad for the audience participation, too – poetry is special among the arts because it requires nothing but the human voice and ear. We hear a poet reciting his poem and can even recite it back to him. That’s something you don’t get when you sit down with his book.”
Muldoon finds that he writes many of his pieces from personal experience. “Well, I find it everywhere. I find that out of my usual routine I get more ideas rather than [fabricating things] just in the every day rut of things. So it can happen anywhere at all,” he said about inspiration.
Through his writing, he even reveals some of the most complex aspects of human emotion, as in his poem “Sideman.” In this piece, Muldoon speaks of companionship.
Muldoon affirms, “You know in many cases, poems begin with a phrase or an image that is striking.” This was apparent when he read the piece, “Sideman” and repeated the memorable refrain, “I’ll be your sideman, I’ll be by your side.”
Muldoon has a unique literary language all his own. He uses metaphors and thumping rhymes to not only convey deeper meanings, but as a play on words to connect two or more unlike topics. For example, his poem “Hopewell Haiku” about his home in New Jersey, uses a metaphorical sumo wrestler-like bullfrog which transitions into the deeper emotion of loneliness.
Correlating with Muldoon’s wishes of his own legacy, “I hope people would think I was someone who tried their best, who had adventures with language that others could enjoy.”
Muldoon utilizes his personal creativity with words in his poem entitled, “Quoof.” The word “quoof” is a reference that was used with his family growing up representing a hot water bottle.
Lucas said, “The poem ‘Quoof’ always stands out to me because it’s a personal favorite of mine. I love the way he wrenches words into rhymes in the poem, but I also have a sentimental attraction to it because I read it as a sophomore in George Bilgere’s poetry workshop, now ten years ago.”
Muldoon ended with a familial tone with his poem, “Saab with Sandi.” This piece is told from the perspective of a father of a teenage daughter who is newly entering the dating world. This poem was relatable to this Dolan Auditorium audience in a variety of ways; fathers in attendance from the community and faculty, to students who have recently entered the dating world themselves.
Muldoon participated in a Q & A session at 4 p.m., as well as a reception for faculty and a select group of students.
“At the risk of sounding a bit smarty pants, I think the favorite piece will be the next one. The reason I do it is in the hope of one of these days that I will write something really interesting,” said Muldoon about his writing and future literary endeavors.