The Dent by Paul Muldoon
After reading Ted Kooser’s poems for a few days, for a change I picked up a recent volume by a very different kind of poet. Paul Muldoon is the poetry editor at The New Yorker and a teacher at Princeton. Born in rural Ireland, he is one of those show-off, ever-young British poets who in every poem sends us off to the repository of the history of our language, the full multiple volume Oxford English Dictionary. Kooser settles us with fine and delightful perceptions of ordinary things. Muldoon rattles us off into directions we hadn’t expected to go. Kooser is a poet of humble nature who helps us recognize things around us. Muldoon is a poet of brash nature who helps us learn things. His new volume is One Thousand Things Worth Knowing.
In memory of Michael Allen
The height of one stall at odds with the next in your grandfather’s byre
where cattle allowed themselves to speak only at Yule
gave but little sense of why you taught us to admire
the capacity of a three-legged stool
to take pretty much everything in its stride,
even the card-carrying Crow who let out a war-whoop
now your red pencil was poised above my calf-hide
manuscript like a graip above a groop.
The depth of a dent in the flank of your grandfather’s cow
from his having leaned his brow
against it morning and night
for twenty years of milking by hand
gave but little sense of how distant is the land
on which you had us set our sights.