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Moy Sand And Gravel [Paperback]

Paul Muldoon
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 1 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, in which 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, un 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, flimflammers, 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.
 
Moy Sand and Gravel is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.


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From Publishers Weekly

This first full volume since Muldoon's monumental Poems 1968-1998 reveals one of the English-speaking world's most acclaimed poets still at the top of his slippery, virtuosic game. Born in Northern Ireland, for more than a decade Muldoon has lived, taught and raised a family in Princeton, N.J. Hay (1998) showed Muldoon incorporating his wife's Jewish-American heritage, and his life as a father, into a poetics previously noted for its formal complexity, its shaggy-dog-story narratives, and its interest in Irish history. This substantial collection furthers Hay's subjects. It succeeds with fast-paced poems of suburban observation and whimsical memory in difficult forms: some inherited (terza rima, sestina, tercets, haiku, catechism, Yeats's "Prayer for My Daughter" stanza), others invented (a sonnet, each of whose first 12 lines ends in "draw"). Occasional poems return to the Irish Troubles Muldoon has long, off and on, described: "A Brief Discourse on Decommissioning" explains "you can't make bricks without the straw that breaks the camel's back." The book's most serious poems ground themselves instead in Muldoon's household. "The Stoic" meditates on a miscarriage "our child already lost from view before it had quite come into range," while the long closing poem places Muldoon's young son Asher in a context that combines Irish and Jewish history with Victorian wilderness stories, lines cribbed from Yeats, and Muldoon's own comic postures: "I, the so-called Goy from the Moy." A few of Muldoon's translations (Horace, Caedmon, Montale) seem slight, and several poems rely, perhaps too heavily, on allusions to Muldoon's own previous work; take those out, though, and what remains is a complicated network of verse declarations, stunts and depictions that may be fun for, and turn out to describe, a whole family.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Following on the heels of Poems 1968-1998, Muldoon's latest volume exhibits a tantalizing mix of dichotomies. The language of rural Ireland (where he was raised) cohabits with that of a professor at both Princeton and Oxford. First, consider "moy" in the title: the OED defines it as an adjective meaning "mild, gentle; demure; also, affected in manners, prim" or as a noun, meaning a "measure for salt; bushel." And all the words that follow are chosen with equal care for heightened ambiguity. Munificence is juxtaposed with munitions, while aunts is rhymed with taunts and fuss with orthodox, almost daring readers to roll and twist the words in their mouths. The poet convincingly joins such disparate elements as guns and butter in these narratives, using unfamiliar imagery and missing pieces, reminiscent of John Ashbery's poetry. Even when he's writing about the familiar, as in his masterly love poem "As," he alerts readers to new ways of seeing the world around them. The use of traditional forms might well make this book accessible to those not accustomed to reading poetry. An important purchase for all libraries. Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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With my back to the wall and a foot in the door and my shoulder to the wheel I would drive through Seskinore. Read the first page
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff Dec 30 2002
By Dermot
Format:Hardcover
Here's a Muldoon pastiche:
Basement
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--
fantastic.
[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.]
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Amazon.com: 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 Dec 30 2002
By Dermot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Here's a Muldoon pastiche:
Basement
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--
fantastic.
[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 April 10 2005
By John L Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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 Oct. 17 2006
By elithian - Published on Amazon.com
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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