Skip to content
Who's in the Video
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[…]

Repetition is just as important in politics as it is in poetry, Muldoon says.

Question: Why repeat a word till it falls apart? 

Paul Muldoon: Well, repetition of course is key to poetry and indeed to most art forms and indeed to most aspects of our lives. It’s all about repetition, what’s cyclical. Repetitive action, starting with the heart, and we sure as hell hope it’s repeating itself. And then going on into so many other aspects of our lives, including--we need to it eat on a regular-ish basis, sleep on a regular-ish basis.

And one of the things that happens to us in our engagement with language, and one of the things that delights us as children, for example, who are really often the people who are most telling in so much of the world and how we function in the world. Nothing delights a child more than repetition and the recognition of a similar signs, of recognition of puns, and then rhymes, which are part of the same, that are in the same general neck of the same, neck of the woods.

And there is also this tendency for the language to find rhymes and chimes as it goes along. In most cultures, that is a significant component of song writing and, by extension, poetry. And it’s something that we see every day of the week and hear everyday of the week, even on advertisements. The percentage of ads that include rhyme is phenomenal. The ad writers want them to be memorable. Everything from on the side of a truck in Brooklyn, I saw once “from fishes to knishes, one call gets them all.” It’s memorable. 

This year of the [US presidential] election in 2008, I’m sure there are a few political pundits sitting around you know trying to come up with a few slogans as that often will be based on rhymes. They get through to people because they are intrinsic to how we are. It’s one of the reasons why I am confident that rhymed poetry is never going to disappear.

This is not to said by the way that it is better than un-rhymed poetry. It's not going to go all way, it’s not going to go away despite the insistence of some.



Recorded on: 1/30/08