Muldoon Makes Metaphors

Paul Muldoon is a writer, academic and educator, as well as Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from County Armagh, Northern Ireland.  Since 1987 he has lived in the United States, where he is now Howard G. B. Clark '21 Professor at Princeton University and Chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts. In 2007 he was appointed Poetry Editor of The New Yorker. Between 1999 and 2004 he was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, where he is an honorary Fellow of Hertford College.  He won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for this work, Moy Sand and Gravel (2002).

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Paul Muldoon was given an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in literature for 1996. Other recent awards are the 1994 T. S. Eliot Prize, the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, the 2003 Griffin International Prize for Excellence in Poetry, the 2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award, the 2004 Shakespeare Prize, the 2005 Aspen Prize for Poetry, and the 2006 European Prize for Poetry. He has been described by The Times Literary Supplement as "the most significant English-language poet born since the second World War."

  • Transcript


Paul Muldoon: Yes, the making of metaphor is at the heart of, I suppose, what I do it. So one is going to pretend to say that but I mean it is a if one would examine it yes that is right, it is at the heart of it. 

A particular kind of metaphor making but it was back to our friend John Dunn and George Herbert, and those guys who specialized in a very particular kind of metaphor, the conceipt, as I say, the extended metaphor, that find a likeness between two on like things and then sort of dragged it on to drew it on like gold, to airy thin beat, as somebody puts it, so a sort of beating the thing on finding every connection the extended Metaphor so I am interested in that.

I am interested in the outlandish metaphor and the finding of connections that are fire flung and yet one hopes illuminating.

So in fact, indeed, we where talking about earlier on. One of the absolute essentials, when metaphor making, is extreme difference; having acknowledged same nesses in the world and one needs extreme differences, actually, to make decent metaphors.

There is really no point in comparing like with like.

There is no point in saying my baseball bat is like a baseball bat. It is of no interest; absolutely none. So one has to go done down the road a little bit to find something with which it is akin.

Question: What is the best metaphor you’ve come up with recently? 

Paul Muldoon: Recently? I am not sure about recently. I don’t know. From early on; I am just thinking; some along the way.

One of the very earliest ones are the particularly, on to this way of John Dunn, was the connection between the crown of thorns on the head of the Christ and a hedgehog, the little thorn, a little quick to animal, then our relationship between  the original Siamese twins, Chang and Young, who died five hours apart, one of them died five hours before the other; connecting that to a relationship in which there is a time zone difference but all of the five hours; but also a relationship that is coming to an end.

Those are just two off the top of my heads.

The one of the things I, like most writers I think, I hope, I don’t really sit around writing, reading my own stuff, so I am not a good person to ask about examples of it.


Recorded on: Jan 30, 2008