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This review is taken from PN Review 150, Volume 29 Number 4, March - April 2003.

ON BEING PREPOSTEROUS PAUL MULDOON, Moy Sand and Gravel (Faber) £14.99

If a poet's response to a painting can tell us something about his poetry, then Paul Muldoon's sonnet `Anthony Green: The Second Marriage', in conversation with Anthony Green's portrait Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Joscelyne: The Second Marriage - and first published in A Conversation Piece (Abbey Press, 2002) - must be one of the most memorable poems in Muldoon's new collection Moy Sand and Gravel (2002). In previous books, as in Madoc: A Mystery (1990) Muldoon has been a professor of legerdemain when it comes to literary names and perhaps he heard in Green's title spooky echoes of James Joyce's surname or found the painting's theme to be an opportunity for some mischievous disclosure - Muldoon is in his second marriage:

Standing as they do, all primped, primed, pukka, all proper, all property-lined, in a room
where every rift's loaded with ore,
they're reminiscent less of a blushing bride and a nervous groom
than a pair of con artists summoned before
a magistrate

Like the convex interior of Green's room, Muldoon's poem in Moy Sand and Gravel seems `capable of taking in almost anything, and anybody', as the blurb suggests. Playful in their use of language, witty - Dame Edna Everage might make a super recitation of these lines - this sonnet seems out of shape and as plush with words, as impossibly and implausibly `loaded', buckled and contorted, as the con artist couple in their crooked room.

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