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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 3: ‘All too familiar’: Topographies of Crisis in Muldoon’s Long Poems


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‘All too familiar’: Topographies of Crisis in Muldoon’s Long Poems


The poet Geoffrey Squires, in his preface to the Irish Studies Review special issue on the long poem in 1983, considered the long poem as particularly suitable for the ‘expression of conflict, within the society, within the individual, or between individual and the society’, as it allowed the poet ‘to go beyond the episodic, contingent, situational response for which the short poem is the natural vehicle’.1 In other words, the addressing of conflict in poetry can benefit from a medium more complex and more extensive than the short lyric, one which can better engage with the diverse causes and consequences contributing to our human predicaments. In a manner that echoes Squires’s words, Paul Muldoon has considered the long poem as a befitting genre for addressing the crises of the contemporary world. In an interview with Dillon Johnson, he commented on his own initial encounters with the long poem as follows:

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