Friday, July 18, 2014

Paul Muldoon reads two poems with his pleasing Irish lilt


I had just decided that I needed to dive into a poet's collected works like Scrooge McDuck and wallow in the wealth of their words for a couple weeks, soak up its currency in large chunks of time dedicated to that poet's works alone. I needed someone writing the bulk of their work at least a few decades ago because I'd been reading mostly stuff from the 80's on for some time now, mostly even more recent.

Why? I don't know why. It sounded right to me. First thought, best thought and all.

Something from the 1900's as a loose guide. A number of poets came to mind (Roethke, Koch, Wright, Crane, Stevens, Bishop, Heaney, Ammons, Edson, Locklin--but I decided I wanted someone who's composing career was over, so Seamus Heaney and Gerald Locklin were out, for this project at least) and I started browsing some of their poems online to re-familiarize myself with them.

I'd recently been meditating on James Wright's "A Blessing" for another post that will up before too long, so he was one of the first I looked at, and of course I was immediately sidetracked.

Arguably one of Wright's most famous poems is "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota" and in refreshing myself on that great poem I was struck by the last line "I have wasted my life" and its similarity to Rilke's "You must change your life" from "The Archaic Torso of Apollo".

My first search to reinforce the idea that I'm not insane and that that comparison between two popular poems had to be there, found an excerpt of an essay by Alan Williamson from Modern American Poetry where he attributes the line to Rimbaud from the poem "Song of the Highest Tower" which is translated to "I have lost my life," and writes that A Poulin mistakenly attributes it to Rilke. Which, I don't know. I definitely can see it, but, anyway, further searching found this cool little recording of Paul Muldoon, The New Yorker's poetry guru and amazing poet reading Hammock and Apollo back to back. So it wasn't a wash, I wasn't alone.


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