Paul Muldoon Reads "The Loaf"
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."
Paul Muldoon: So, this is a poem called The Loaf. It's set somewhat in the house that I live in in New Jersey, a house built in 1750 or thereabouts in that era.
When they were building a house, they incorporated huge amounts of horse hair into the wall to bind the plaster, so that's a feature of this poem which is really, which is essentially about a hole in a wall and a range of sensations through it. Appearing in it are some of the Irish navigational canal workers who built the Delaware and Raritan canal. That's about it. There is a little nonsense and a little nonsense refrain, or something close to it.
When I put my finger to the hole they've cut for a dimmer switch
in a wall of plaster stiffened with horsehair
it seems I've scratched a two-hundred-year-old itch
with a pink and a pink and a pinkie-pick.
When I put my ear to the hole I'm suddenly aware
of spades and shovels turning up the gain
all the way from Raritan to the Delaware
with a clink and a clink and a clinkie-click.
When I put my nose to the hole I smell the floodplain
of the canal after a hurricane
and the spots of green grass where thousands of Irish have lain
with a stink and a stink and a stinkie-stick.
When I put my eye to the hole I see one holding horse dung to the rain
in the hope, indeed, indeed,
of washing out a few whole ears of grain
with a wink and a wink and a winkie-wick.
And when I do at last succeed
in putting my mouth to the horsehair-fringed niche
I can taste the small loaf of bread he baked from that whole seed
with a link and a link and a linkie-lick.
Recorded on: Jan 30, 2008
The Pulitzer Prize winning Irish poet reads his poem.
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