Paul Muldoon performed at the Edinburgh Book festival on Saturday and was everything I expected – witty, warm and confident. He was good at delivering his poems, slow without being too slow, and able to speak clearly with just the right emphasis on each word. He gave the impression that every word mattered intimately, which should be the case in any poem.
He read mainly from his forthcoming collection, Horse Latitudes. I really enjoyed his previous book Moy Sand and Gravel, and this new one sounded as though it will be at least as strong. It’s hard to take in Muldoon poems after a single read, however well they are read. I kept wanting to ask him to stop and give me a minute to take in what I’d heard. He read the new poem on the front page of his website, for example, A Hummingbird, which used quotes from a post-divorce party (real or imagined quotes, I don’t know) and integrated them with the flight of a hummingbird through a forest.
He also read a 13-part Sonnet Sequence, (originally published in Botteghe Oscure) in its entirety, half at the beginning and half at the end of the reading. It’s so clever in its use of repetition and, although it’s dark in places, it’s also funny. Muldoon did comment that he saw “no reason why poetry shouldn’t be fun, whatever some people might think”. Who are these people?!
One interesting comment he made was that he already felt distant from his new book, even though it hadn’t yet been published. He’d written it and was already interested in the next book, and in the creative process by which it would come about, if it ever did. Once a poem was finished, he left it behind. It’s the writing of poems he loves.