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This review is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

QUOOF READING Paul Muldoon, Quoof (Faber & Faber) £4.00 pb.

Paul Muldoon, in the hyperbolic claims of the blurb, is 'one of the most significant writers of his generation'. Yet is there a sillier poem currently in circulation than the volume's title-piece? I doubt it. Reading it we discover that 'quoof' is Muldoon's 'family word/for the hot water bottle', and, furthermore, it is an almost sentient neologism, a 'shy beast that has yet to enter the language'. Supporters of this type of thing would doubtless argue that Muldoon's is a specifically modern (even post-modern) sensibility, demonstrating language's ability to contain and expand the limits of the world. And, indeed, does not 'Quoof' partly achieve this? . . . But what stops me dead in my tracks in this, and in so many of these poems, is its retreat into whimsy, particularly when sexuality becomes thematic. Thus the succinct point about language is nullifed by the two lines: 'I have taken it into so many lovely heads/or laid it between us like a sword'. However, sexuality is not often an occasion for courtly love ploys in this book; Muldoon has a penchant for clammy sexual metaphorization that simply leaves me hooting: 'the unquenchable oomph/of her whip, her thigh-length boot//on the other foot,/her hackled gulp of semen'. A goddess leaves 'a lemon stain on my flannel sheets'. Another character 'tosses it off like a caber' (is there some arcane Celtic source for this imagery?). As for 'the froth of bra and panties', I can almost see Muldoon in the launderette watching ...


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