Yet my eye is drawn once again,
Almost against its wishes,
To the figure in the shadows,
Willowy, and clean-shaven,
As if he simply wandered in
Between mending that fuse
And washing the breakfast dishes.
from "The Bearded Woman, by Ribera"
Sven Birkerts has said, "It is not usual for a poet of Muldoon's years to have an oeuvre disclosing significant shifts and evolutions. But Muldoon, more than most, is an artist in high flight from self-repetition and the deadening business of living up to created expectations." The body of work in Poems 1968-1998a comprehensive gathering of Paul Muldoon's eight volumes-finds a great poet reinventing himself and recreating the business of poetry. The thirty-year effort of Muldoon's career thus far, is altogether like a fascinatingly mutable climate in which each freshening period brings-as his first collection was predictively titled-new weather.
Once tutored by fellow Irishman Seamus Heaney, Muldoon writes poetry known for its dry humor, narrative scenes, deferred meanings and Joycean word games. Since 1983's Quoof, his muse has included the United States, and the tone of his verse has changed to accommodate this multiculturalism. Among his many talents, Muldoon has a penchant for long poems and poetry cycles, best displayed in "Middagh Street," "Madoc: A Mystery," the autobiographical "Yarrow" and "Sleeve Notes." "Madoc: A Mystery," which is the best of the lot, offers an amusing romp through American history and myth. It explores the mystery of Welsh Indians and features comic cameos by Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark. These frantically paced scenes and dense images can be tough going, though they are always rewarding. Muldoon's signature Gaelic whimsy is thoroughly refreshing.