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‘Slight Return’

Paul Muldoon’s Poetics of Place


Anne Karhio

This volume examines the relationship between poetic language and place in the work of Paul Muldoon. Through a close reading of the formal and stylistic aspects of his poems, the book explores the question of how poetry as an art form can be engaged to map the complex exchanges between language and the material, phenomenal, personal and social dimensions of our sense of place. In particular, it demonstrates how various forms of repetition and return, in language and memory, are crucial to Muldoon’s approach to place and landscape. Each chapter focuses on a specific aspect of the poet’s work: the naming of place; the genre of the long poem; poetry, music and nostalgia; and, finally, the place of poetry in the information age.


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Chapter 5: The Place of Poetry in the Information Age: Things Worth Knowing?


Chapter 5 The Place of Poetry in the Information Age: Things Worth Knowing? ‘Information’ and ‘Knowing’ In 2006, Fran Brearton commented on how new technologies have changed the way we read Muldoon’s work: […] what once looked ‘difficult’ in Muldoon, what left many readers ‘high and dry’, and what provided plenty of fodder for the academic, has been transformed by the internet. What might once have entailed weeks of research now requires little more than an afternoon with Google. The great virtue of that change is not the ease with which Muldoon is now ‘elucidated’; rather, we can now shortcut to a recognition that such elucidations and explications […] don’t really help that much at all.1 In other words, the accusation of opacity or elitism that has frequently fol- lowed from readers’ frustration with Muldoon’s densely referential poetics is harder to justify in the digital age, when background information on words, names, and locations can be accessed with a few hits on the key- board. The poet himself has always remained coolly unconcerned when faced with critics’ occasional annoyance with his method. When asked about the overwhelming complexity and the abundant use of intertextual reference in ‘Madoc’, he replied: If you don’t know who Burr or Blennerhassett is, well, you may have to go and find out. But that’s okay. There are lots of things we have to go and find out. We have to go and find out what red, what wheel and barrow are, at some level. But […] I’m 1...

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