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Paul Muldoon's Haiku

Paul Muldoon was born in 1951 in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, and educated in Armagh and at the Queen's University of Belfast. From 1973 to 1986 he worked in Belfast as a radio and television producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Since 1987 he has lived in the United States, where he is now Howard G. B. Clark '21 Professor at Princeton University and Chair of the University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. Between 1999 and 2004 he was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford, where he is an honorary Fellow of Hertford College.

 

Hopewell Haiku
(published in Hay, 1998; the sequence also appeared as a chapbook the previous year).
“Hopewell” refers to the New Jersey town where Muldoon lived for a time.

I

The door of the shed
open-shuts with the clangor
of red against red.

II

A muddle of mice.
Their shit looks like caraway
but smells like allspice.

III

From whin-bright Cave Hill
a blackbird might . . . will give thanks
with his whin-bright bill.

IV

For now, we must make
do with a thumb-blowing owl
across the firebreak.

V

A stone at its core,
this snowball's the porcelain
knob on winter's door.

VI

Our wild cat, Pangur,
spent last night under the hood
of my old banger.

VII

I tamped it with hay,
the boot that began to leak
Thursday to Friday.

VIII

Snow up to my shanks.
I glance back. The path I've hacked
is a white turf bank.

IX

Cheek-to-cheek-by-jowl,
from the side of the kettle
my ancestors scowl.

X

A crocus piss stain.
"There's too much snow in my life,"
my daughter complains.

XI

Pennons in pine woods
where the white-tailed stag and doe
until just now stood.

XII

For most of a week
we've lived on a pot of broth
made from a pig's cheek.

XIII

Burst pipes. Solder flak.
Now she sports a ropper ring
with a hairline crack.

XIV

Though cast in metal,
our doorstop hare finds no place
in which to settle.

XV

The changeless penknife.
The board. The heavy trestles.
The changeless penknife.

XVI

Teasel, that lies low,
aspires to raising the nap
on your woolen throw.

XVII

The finer the cloth
in you obi, or waist piece,
the finer the moth.

XVIII

The first day of spring.
What to make of that bald patch
right under the swing.

XIX

A mare's long white face.
A blazed tree marking a trail
we'll never retrace.

XX

The razzle-dazzle
of a pair of Ratatosks
on their Yggdrasill.

XXI

Jean stoops to the tap
set into a maple's groin
for the rising sap.

XXII

The Canada geese
straighten a pantyhose seam,
press a trouser crease.

XXIII

When I set a match
to straw—Whiteboys, Bootashees,
pikestaffs in the thatch.

XXIV

From the white-hot bales
Caravats and Shanavets
step with white-hot flails.

XXV

A hammock at dusk.
I scrimshaw a narwhal hunt
on a narwhal tusk.

XXVI

I, too, nailed a coin
to the mast of the Pequod.
A tiny pinecone.

XXVII

The yard's three lonesome
pines are hung with such tokens.
A play by Zeami.

XXVIII

Good Friday. At three,
a swarm of bees sets its heart
on an apple tree.

XXIX

While the goldfinch nest
in the peach tree's eye level
with a stallion's crest.

XXX

That peach bears the brunt
of the attacks by mildew,
black rot, smuts, and bunts.

XXXI

Twilight. Pyewacket
ambles along the ridgepole
with a tar bucket.

XXXII

We buy flour, bacon
and beans with pollen we pan
here in the Yukon.

XXXIII

The wide boulevard
where a window-shopping deer
goes by fits and starts.

XXXIV

None more disheveled
than those who seemed most demure.
Our ragweed revels.

XXXV

Raspberries. Red-blue.
A paper cut on the tongue
from a billet-doux.

XXXVI

Now the star-nosed mole
looks back down his long tunnel,
I scrape my boot soles.

XXXVII

The bold Pangur Ban
draws and quarters wood thrush
by the garbage can.

XXXVIII

It seems from this sheer
clapboard, fungus-flanged, that walls
do indeed have ears.

XXXIX

A worm for a lure.
The small-mouthed black bass recoil
from my overtures.

XL

Had the thrush not flung
itself at the gin-and-lime.
Had the trap not sprung.

XLI

Jean paints one toenail.
In a fork of the white ash,
quick, a cardinal.

XLII

Nowadays I flush
a long-drawn-out cry, at most,
from the underbrush.

XLIII

A giant puffball.
The swelled, head-hunted, swelled head
of a king of Gaul.

XLIV

A Saharan boil.
Oscar stretched under a hide
by the toilet bowl.

XLV

There's a trail of slime
that runs from the lady's-smock.
I'll show you sometime.

XLVI

At my birthday bash,
a yellow bin for bottles
and a green for trash.

XLVII

Sunflower with fenceposts.
Communion rail. Crozier. Cope.
The monstrance. The host.

XLVIII

From under the shed
a stench that's beyond belief.
Pangur Ban is dead.

XLIX

I lean to one side
to let a funeral pass.
It leans to one side.

L

Now I must take stock.
The ax I swaggered and swung's
split the chopping block.

LI

In a slow puddle
two dragonlies, Oxford blues,
rest on their paddles.

LII

Saturday night. Soap.
Ametas and Thestylis
still making hay ropes.

LIII

A lady's-smock thief's
made off with five pairs of smalls
and two handkerchiefs.

LIV

An airplane, alas,
is more likely than thunder
to trouble your glass.

LV

On the highest rung
of my two-pointed ladder
a splash of bird dung.

LVI

Immediately you
tap that old bell of millet
it somehow rings true.

LVII

While from the thistles
that attend our middle age
a goldfinch whistles.

LVIII

A small, hard pear falls
and hits the deck with a thud.
Ripeness is not all.

LIX

Wonder of wonders.
The plow that stood in the hay's
itself plowed under.

LX

Take off his halter
and a horse will genuflect
at a horse altar.

LXI

Bivouac. Billet.
The moon a waning of lard
on a hot skillet.

LXII

For I wrote this page
by the spasm . . . The spasm . . .
A firefly . . . A cage.

LXIII

The boiler room floods.
Old apple trees lagged with moss.
Live coals in the mud.

LXIV

It's as if he plays
harmonica, the raccoon
with an ear of maize.

LXV

No time since we checked
our scythe blades, our reaping hooks
that are now rust-flecked.

LXVI

Two trees in the yard
bring neither shade nor shelter
but rain, twice as hard.


LXVII

A bullfrog sumo
stares into his bowl of wine.
Those years in Suma.

LXVIII

Now he swims across
a swimming pool. His breaststroke
leaves me at a loss.

LXIX

Such sallies and swoons.
A starling flock. A total
eclipse of the moon.

LXX

Beyond the corn stooks
the maples' firewood detail.
Their little red books.

LXXI

A sudden swelter.
A furnace door throwing light
on the ore smelters.

LXXII

Like a wayside shrine
to itself, this sideswiped stag
of the seven tines.

LXXIII

The leaves of the oak
were boons on a hero's booth.
They've gone up in smoke.

LXXIV

Night. The citadel
gives off carbolic and bleach.
Jeyes' Fluid. Dettol.

LXXV

I’ve upset the pail
in which my daughter had kept
her five—“No, six”—snails.

LXXVI

And her homemade kite
of less than perfect design?
Also taken flight.

LXXVII

Is that body bag
Cushulainn's or Ferdia's?
Let's check the dog tag.

LXXVIII

Fresh snow on the roof
of a car that passed me by.
The print of one hoof.

LXXIX

Through the cankered peach
is felled, the bird's nest it held
is still out of reach.

LXXX

That stag I sideswiped.
I watched a last tear run down
his tear duct. I wept.

LXXXI

There's such a fine line
between freezing rain and sleet.
The stag's narrow chine.

LXXXII

A horse farts and farts
on the wind-tormented scarp.
A virtuoso.

LXXXIII

A sang-de boeuf sky
reflected in a cold frame
gives the earth the lie.

LXXXIV

The old stag that belled
all night long, tail end of rut.
How my own heart swelled.

LXXXV

On the road to town
a raccoon in party mask.
Grey shawl. Grey ballgown.

LXXXVI

Winter time, my sweet.
The puppy, under our bed
licking salt-raw feet.

LXXXVII

Not a golden carp
but a dog turd under ice.
Not a golden carp.

LXXXVIII

That wawering flame
is the burn-off from a mill.
Star of Bethlehem.

LXXXIX

Fishermen have cut
a hole in the frozen lake.
No smoke from their hut.

XC

The maple’s great cask
that once held so much in store
now yields a hip flask.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

News Headlines from the Homer Noble Farm
from Moy Sand and Gravel, 2002

I

The case-hardened cop.
A bull moose in a boghole
brought him to a stop.

II

From his grassy knoll
he has you in his crosshairs,
the accomplice mole.

III

This sword once a share.
This forest a fresh-faced farm.
This stone once a stair.

IV

The birch crooks her arm,
as if somewhat more inclined
to welcome the swarm.

V

He has, you will find,
two modes only, the chipmunk:
fast-forward; rewind.

VI

The smell, like a skunk,
of coffee about to perk.
Thelonious Monk.

VII

They're the poker work
of some sort of woodpecker,
these holes in the bark.

VIII

My new fact checker
claims tha pilus means "pestle."
My old fact checker.

IX

The Rose and Thistle.
Where the hummingbird drops in
to wet his whistle.

X

Behind the wood bin
a garter snake snaps itself,
showing us some skin.

XI

Like most bits of delf,
the turtle's seen at its best
on one's neighbor's shelf.

XII

Riding two abreast
on their stripped-down, souped-up bikes,
bears in leather vests.

XIII

The eye-shaded shrike.
BIRD BODIES BURIED IN BOG's
a headline he'll spike.

XIV

Steady, like a log
riding a sawmill's spillway,
the steady coydog.

XV

The cornet he plays
was Bolden's, then Beiderbecke's,
this lonesome blue jay.

XVI

Some fresh auto wreck.
Slumped over a horn. Sump pool.
The frog's neck-braced neck.

XVII

Brillo pads? Steel wool?
The regurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgitations, what,
of a long-eared owl?

XVIII

The jet with the jot.
The drive-in screen with the sky.
The blood with the blot.

XIX

How all seems to vie,
not just my sleeping laptop
with the first firefly.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

90 Instant Messages to Tom Moore
from Horse Latitudes, 2006, pp. 53-75.
[an earlier version was published by Modern Haiku Press as Sixty Messages to Tom Moore]

I

Jim-jams and whim-whams
where the whalers still heave to
for a gammy-gam.

XIV

A barracuda
is eating a small nurse shark.
Each smiles like Buddha.

XVII

A drunken girl blabs
how he had put in an oar
but she caught a crab.

XVIII

Matted twigs and moss.
Herons turn copper-blue eggs.
Boys play pitch and toss.

XIX

Planning a furrow
right round the world, the cahow
stirs in its burrow.

XX

Tied to the drift rails
and flogged with a bull's pizzle,
a sailor still wails.

XXIX

Wasp nest on the shelf?
Or a papier-māché
maquette of itself?

LXXXIX

The glass of red wine
with which I saw eye to eye
until half past nine.

XC

Completely at odds.
We're now completely at odds.
Completely at odds.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

Bibliograpy of his haiku

Horse Latitudes
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006
Faber and Faber, 2006

Sixty Instant Messages to Tom Moore
Modern Haiku Press, 2005, 32 pages

Medley for Morin Khur
Enitharmon Press, 2005

Moy Sand And Gravel
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002
Faber and Faber, 2002

Unapproved Road
Pied Oxen, 2002

Poems 1968-1998
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001
Faber and Faber, 2001

Hay
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998
Faber and Faber, 1998
(The “Hopewell Haiku” sequence also appears in his Poems, 1968–1998.)

Hopewell Haiku
Warwick Press, 1997


http://www.modernhaiku.org/essays/PaulMuldoon.html
http://www.modernhaiku.org/bookreviews/Muldoon2005.html
http://www.paulmuldoon.net/