I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Rousing the Reader

One Thousand Things Worth Knowing, by Paul Muldoon, Faber, 128 pp, £11.99, ISBN: 978-0571316045 Paul Muldoon is our most Wildean writer in the twenty-first century. In many ways Wildier than Wilde, but the comparison still appears just to me. His verse exhibits wit and skill, informed by a steady, serious gaze. He is an international poet with a reach as far as the transatlantic English into which the world’s culture empties itself, but also a grounded one; when the Irish reader encounters in the hologram-maze of his references the word gliomach, she wonders how many of her foreign counterparts know they can consult the online Dinneen. His work of course reflects his life: as transatlantic professor at Princeton, the jet engine ferrying him home but not allowing him to forget the millions of less fortunate exiles who laboured without a chance of return, commemorated in his earlier poem “The Loaf”; as father in a world of globalised youth, as possessor of a sensibility that enjoys the rootless and changeable mash of contemporary culture without becoming deracinated himself. Enjoyment is bubbling up everywhere, the hilarity of a bookish child loose in a library, of the writer in a university not tethered to a period, of the person free to come and go, who saw classifying him as an “exile” as belittling “the likes of Brodsky or Padilla” in The Prince of the Quotidian. It is located even more in the nature and the possibilities of poetic language. Wilde’s dictum “A truth in art is that of which the opposite is also true” is balanced by the opposite and equal truth, that language does bear a relationship to truth, and the poet’s job is to find a provisional balance between these two realities. The oppositions are frequently binary, fictions of poetry presenting themselves as both true and false. The invocations, the conjurings and the clues can cluster in a brace of lines that have the blatant form of a statement. In the opening poem of One Thousand Things Worth Knowing, “Cuthbert and the Otters”, “This style of nasal helmet was developed by the Phrygians // while they were stationed at Castledawson” has a seismological sense both of the actual shifts of history (it was the Celts who overran the Phrygians, in Asia Minor, it seems; conquerors and conquered have changed places – and they change places in the other sense too) and the steadiness of…



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