RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
We turn now to a man who will be asking, does that make New Yorker poem. The New Yorker has its first new poetry editor in 20 years, and as a poet himself, Paul Muldoon has had a taste of trying to get into the pages of the magazine, rather legendarily with the poem that tweaked the whole idea.
Mr. PAUL MULDOON (Poetry Editor, The New Yorker): It was a poem that I thought insofar as there might be such a thing, might be one's archetypical New Yorker poem. As I was writing it, I developed a little acrostic, which round on the left hand margin of the poem.
MONTAGNE: The first letter of that acrostic was I - In a deep and a dark wood. The next letter S, for Saint Joan, and the next T, as in The electroplated bracken, and so on.
Mr. MULDOON: It actually spells out is this a New Yorker poem or what? I did send it to The New Yorker, and of course, got it smartly back as indeed. I got many bumps markedly back from The New Yorker over the years.
MONTAGNE: That didn't stopped Paul Muldoon from reaching poetic heights among his prizes, a Pulitzer and a reputation that ranks up there with another Irish poet, Seamus Heaney.
Though Muldoon, long ago settled in the U.S., his poetry draws heavily on his childhood in Northern Ireland. He grew up a Catholic near Belfast, and his latest collection, Horse Latitudes, includes this poem.
Mr. MULDOON: (Reading) Eggs: I was unpacking a dozen eggs into the fridge when I notice a hairline crack at which I pecked 'til at long last I squeezed into a freshly whitewashed scullery in Cullenramer. It was all hush-hush where my mother's mother took a pot ash rag to the dozen new laid eggs, and balancing a basket on her bike, pushed off for Dungannon. This was much before the time a priest would touch down from the Philippines with a clutch of game bird eggs and introduce a whole new strain fighting cocks.
It would be midnight when my mother's mother got back from Dungannon, now completely smashed on hard liquor bought with hard cash, cash on the barrel. It was all hush-hush as she was taken from a truck, painted matter of factly, milk and eggs, into which they had bundled her along with her bike for delivery to Cullenramer. It would be all hush-hush next morning in the whitewashed scullery where she wrung out the potash rag and took it to another dozen or so new-laid eggs. For many, one of which I might yet poke my little beak.
MONTAGNE: How much do you find yourself going back and forth between the Ireland of your grandmother all the way through to - comes you write that are very much about today in America where you live?
Mr. MULDOON: Well, what's amusing perhaps about this is that when I lived in Ireland, much of what I wrote about was set in the U.S. For us, there was every bit as much a sense of America being the next parish, as they say.
One of the very first poems I wrote, for example, when I was about 12 or so, had to do with setting a fort in the middle of Northern Ireland, and it's history against what Yeats would have described as both as the filthy modern tide that was represented by, as I described it in the poem, the reek of gasoline. And remember the teacher coming to me and saying, gasoline, what do you mean gasoline? Do you mean petrol? So in other words, even then, American vocabulary had many huge inroad for us.
MONTAGNE: And out of such moments emerged a poet. Paul Muldoon is The New Yorker magazine's new poetry editor.
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