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Moy Sand and Gravel [Paperback]

Paul Muldoon
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2004


Paul Muldoon's ninth collection of poems, his first since Hay (1998), finds him working a rich vein that extends from the rivery, apple-heavy County Armagh of the 1950s, where he was brought up, to suburban New Jersey, on the banks of a canal dug by Irish navvies, where he now lives. Grounded, glistening, as gritty as they are graceful, these poems seem capable of taking in almost anything, and anybody, be it a Tuareg glimpsed on the Irish border, Bessie Smith, Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth I, a hunted hare, William Tell, William Butler Yeats, Sitting Bull, Ted Hughes, an otter, a fox, Mr and Mrs Stanley Joscelyne, an unearthed pit pony, a loaf of bread, an outhouse, a killdeer, Oscar Wilde, or a flock of redknots. At the heart of the book is an elegy for a miscarried child, and that elegiac tone predominates, particularly in the elegant remaking of Yeats's 'A Prayer for My Daughter' with which the book concludes, where a welter of traffic signs and slogans, along with the spirits of admen, hardware storekeepers, flim-flammers, fixers and other forebears, are borne along by a hurricane-swollen canal, and private grief coincides with some of the gravest matter of our age.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New edition edition (1 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571216900
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571216901
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 359,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"A marvellous book; nothing human, or inhuman, is alien to it."--Andrew Motion, "The Independent "Books of the Year "Among the few significant poets of our half-century." --Tim Kendall, "The Guardian" "Paul Muldoon is a shape-shifting Proteus to readers who try to pin him down...Those who interrogate Muldoon's poems find themselves changing shapes each time he does... authentically touched or delighted." --Richard Eder, "The New York Times Book Review" "One of the English-Speaking world's most acclaimed poets still at the top of his slippery, virtuosic game." --"Publishers Weekly"

About the Author

Paul Muldoon was born in County Armagh in 1951. He read English at Queen's University, Belfast, and published his first collection of poems, New Weather, in 1973. He is the author of ten books of poetry, including Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and Horse Latitudes (2006). Since 1987 he has lived in the United States, where he is the Howard G. B. Clark Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University. From 1999 to 2004 he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Paul Muldoon was given an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in 1996. Other recent awards include the 1994 T. S. Eliot Prize, the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, and the 2003 Griffin Prize.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Challenging and worth it. 19 Jun 2008
Moy Sand and Gravel, for which Muldoon won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize and the International Griffin Poetry Prize, is a complex, multi-layered collection that, again, returns to Muldoon's preoccupations: familial relationships; displacement (literal, metaphorical and linguistic) and its associated crises of identity; and the problems, for a poet who has been publishing material for a long time, of saying anything new. Muldoon in an interview acknowledged Yeats as the great reinventor, changing his engagement (but not his voice) when writing as a function of progression, as a way to avoid self-parody. Muldoon has been similarly successful. So has Heaney, but where Heaney's collections seem to follow a natural, organic progression (one critic remarked that Heaney's imagination has 'a five-year plan') Muldoon's collections collide with one another and riccochet in new directions, taking old themes on new and unfamiliar journeys. 'Unapproved Road', the second poem in the collection, seems to coincide with this pattern: a border-crossing in Ireland in 1956 is intercut with an encounter with a Tuareg in Rotterdam 1986, in which a surreal discussion on the etymology of Irish place-names elucidates a shared heritage that has resulted in radically different outcomes and offspring. This sense of divergence permeates the entire collection, making Moy Sand and Gravel simultaneously one of Muldoon's most grounded, rooted collections, and one of his most strikingly heady and intangible. Read more ›
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5 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Modernist doggerel 5 Mar 2008
Oh this is just too awful for words. Utterly tedious subject matter embalmed in hiply snide erudition [lazy obscurity with just enough reference points to thrill the trainspotters] and about as poetic as the drivel one has come to expect from an earnest Creative Writing Seminar student. Why has someone like Muldoon been elevated to his present position in the Pantheon of Contemporary Poets ... It can't be true, but yes it is ... Poetry Editor of the New Yorker. Dear oh dear. It's amateur-hour for post-modernist kiddies who've attended a hundred too many Writers' Festivals. Watch out Charlie Simic and Adam Zagajewski. My beloved New Yorker will be exiling you soon for being readable, using apposite metaphors, and actually having something to write about. Gee, come to think of it, even John Ashbery with his flippantly surrealistic collage might be too disagreeably poetic for the new door nazis. Paul Muldoon is a professional poet in all the worst senses.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff 31 Dec 2002
By Dermot - Published on
Here's a Muldoon pastiche:
Then to spy
in an unused cellar spot
Under a bulb fixture
long since jury-rigged
in deal cast-off
And between oil tank
and salt-scalloped stone wall
--Between a ruck
and a carapace--
A tiny skeleton--mouse.
My instinct:
to trip-tipsy the dark
--As even the Dean
and Cuchulain might--
[My opinion is that Muldoon peaked in 1990 with his tour de force, MADOC--A Mystery, the book-length poem and astounding work of the imagination. MADOC was large, confounding, mysterious, lyrical, and sui generis (really). Yet many readers/reviewers did not appreciate it. Since that work, Muldoon seemingly has tried to obtain such appreciation by offering more manageable fare--featuring topical themes, easy wit, sentiment, form, and rhyme (not to mention all those pretty names of Irish places). He has served up plates of warm apercus. If that is your thing--fine. He is terribly accomplished--his more recent poems, including those of Moy Sand and Gravel, sparkle with polish and panache. But I will take the polar edge of the creative MADOC thankyouverymuch.]
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid collection best read after his previous three volumes 11 April 2005
By John L Murphy - Published on
My rating does not mean this is average poetic work, only that by comparison to his last three collections, it less frequently reaches their daunting and rarified heights. It's actually a better place to start reading the "later" Muldoon, in fact. Domesticity has tamed a bit of the bravura evident in the arcane lore dazzling the other collections perhaps too much. Poems here like "Unapproved Road," mixing Taureg with IRA in its 1950s failed "border campaign," wittily contrast in a way that Muldoon warms to more and more as his work confronts his own hyphenating midlife identity into an American as much as an Irish poet. "Guns & Butter," "Whitethorns," "A Brief Course on Decommissioning" address the post-1998 events in the North of Ireland intelligently and without pandering. His children and wife now enter his work to round it out more vividly, and at least some of the shorter poems here continue the clarity sought in "Hay"'s briefer verses.

The reason this collection loses a star is the last poem, as usual in his work a longer one: "At the Sign of the Black Horse." The Irish navvy-Jewish mogul undercurrent never convinces, but seems layered over the parental concerns. Where Muldoon often swerves to avoid obstacles, here he seems to plow ahead, but ends up floundering a bit when taking more time to expand and concentrate his direction would've made for a better poetic quest into a very deserving subject of culture clash.
3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Obscure 17 Oct 2006
By elithian - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Poetry is an art form that succeeds only if the reader can share with the poet a vision communicated by the poem. How this work won a pulitzer prize escapes me. The only way for an "outsider" the read this book is with an interpreter and a dictionary so the obscure, at least from my point of view, references can be appreciated. As a reader I get no sense of the images the writer wants to conjure and the poems fail to take me anywhere but to the cliff of reason where I am just left without a bridge for crossing. I do not wonder I was able to purchase this book for such a low price.
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