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This review is taken from PN Review 201, Volume 38 Number 1, September - October 2011.

MAGGOT: A MYSTERY? PAUL MULDOON, Maggot (Faber & Faber, £9.99)

Since the publication of his Collected Poems in 1998, Paul Muldoon's poetic output has been regular, with Moy Sand and Gravel appearing in 2002, Horse Latitudes in 2006, and most recently Maggot in 2010. The poetry itself, however, is far from what one would call 'regular' in the American sense; nor is it regular in its processes and movements from line to line, rhyme to rhyme, image to image. To his regular readers, this is all familiar by now. However, if Muldoon has ever had a tendency towards 'cleveritudes', as Seamus Heaney wrote in a review of 1990's Madoc: A Mystery, this tendency comes increasingly to the fore in his sequences, of which there are many in Maggot. Muldoon's output is by now copious and various; his poems, too, work on the basis of copiousness and variety - or rather, the numerous sequences in Maggot are driven by the principle, or trick, of variation and repetition. Muldoon as trickster is by now a familiar figure, and this is what has helped position him as the centre of 'postmodernism' in contemporary poetry, if such a thing exists in any coherent sense (a bit like punk, it seems by definition not to). In an age where language is seen as disconnected from reality the poet is either a magician or a trickster: the magician attempts to heal the rift, the trickster revels in free play and disconnection. This 'free play' of a language which refers to facts simply because we need ...


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