Rural Poetry Series: Paul Muldoon
My father was a servant-boy.When he left school at eight or nineHe took up billhook and loyTo win the ground he would never own.My mother was the school-mistress,The world of Castor and Pollux.There were twins in her own class.She could never tell which was which.She had read one volume of Proust,He knew the cure for farcy.I flitted between a hole in the hedgeAnd a room in the Latin Quarter.
The Moy that Muldoon returns to in his 2002 collection is one conscious of its place alongside many borders — those between traditional and modern culture, the rural and the urban, and between a deep, almost archeological, past and a fluid present tense. In his poem “The Misfits,” which places a viewing of that famous film written by Arthur Miller (with the last on-screen appearances by Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe) alongside his childhood duties on the farm, where he mines a row of potatoes, “what would surely seem / to any nine- or ten-year-old an inexhaustible seam.”
This pun on visual representation and human creation finds succinct and powerful articulation in the title poem, “Moy Sand and Gravel.” Paul Muldoon’s website offers a reading of the poem here; please find the text below:
To come out of the Olympic Cinema and be taken aback
by how, in the time it took a dolly to travel
along its little track
to the point where two movies stars’ heads
had come together smackety-smack
and their kiss filled the whole screen,
those two great towers directly across the road
at Moy Sand and Gravel
had already washed, at least once, what had flowed
or been dredged from the Blackwater’s bed
and were washing it again, load by load,
as if washing might make it clean.