by Sophia Kownatzki
The Irish Studies Program welcomed Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon on Thursday, October 11. The 2017 recipient of Her Majesty’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Muldoon was met with a large and excited audience of over 100 that packed the Maude Fife Room in Wheeler Hall. Following an introduction listing his awards and accomplishments as a poet, songwriter, and children’s books writer, Muldoon took to the podium and immediately jumped into a recitation of “Meeting the British.” Muldoon was engaging, physical, and passionate as he spoke, and provided a clarification of the poem’s context – the native Pontiac’s Rebellion against the British army – and its relation to early germ warfare. Segueing into the next poem, Muldoon admitted, “I’m making this up as I go along. We’ll go on an adventure together and see where it goes.”
The subject matter of the following poem, “The Coney,” paralleled the spontaneity of the evening. He explained that “The Coney” was inspired by one of his dreams, in which he met a rabbit that mistook him for his father. Muldoon’s fantastical storytelling had the audience alongside him every step of the way, laughing at its oddities and processing his surreal portrayal of emotional loss, which presented his father’s death as a rabbit diving into a pool of wolves. Muldoon also read one of his newer poems, such as “The Great Horse of the World,” which detailed one of his earliest memories.
Running across the stage to grab another one of his books sitting at a merchandise table, Muldoon leafed through it quickly and quipped, “Please don’t feel that I’m ill prepared.” He settled into the next poem, titled “Wave,” a somber and sentimental elegy he wrote in memory of poet C.K. Williams. After to listen to the Campanile bell strike eight o’clock, Muldoon concluded the evening reciting a love song he wrote called “Comeback,” telling the story of a once popular, now dated band trying to make a comeback. Although the official poetry reading ended, with the Irish Studies Program’s encouragement and to their delight, most of the audience stayed afterwards to discuss the reading amongst each other and with Muldoon himself.