Moy Sand and Gravel

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9780571215355: Moy Sand and Gravel

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR POETRY 2003 Paul Muldoon's ninth collection of poems, his first since Hay (1998), finds him working a rich vein that extends from the rivery, apple-heavy County Armagh of the 1950s, where he was brought up, to suburban New Jersey, on the banks of a canal dug by Irish navvies, where he now lives. Grounded, glistening, as gritty as they are graceful, these poems seem capable of taking in almost anything, and anybody, be it a Tuareg glimpsed on the Irish border, Bessie Smith, Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth I, a hunted hare, William Tell, William Butler Yeats, Sitting Bull, Ted Hughes, an otter, a fox, Mr and Mrs Stanley Joscelyne, an unearthed pit pony, a loaf of bread, an outhouse, a killdeer, Oscar Wilde, or a flock of redknots. At the heart of the book is an elegy for a miscarried child, and that elegiac tone predominates, particularly in the elegant remaking of Yeats's 'A Prayer for My Daughter' with which the book concludes, where a welter of traffic signs and slogans, along with the spirits of admen, hardware storekeepers, flim-flammers, fixers and other forebears, are borne along by a hurricane-swollen canal, and private grief coincides with some of the gravest matter of our age.

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About the Author:

Paul Muldoon was born in County Armagh in 1951. He read English at Queen's University, Belfast, and published his first collection of poems, New Weather, in 1973. He is the author of ten books of poetry, including Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and Horse Latitudes (2006). Since 1987 he has lived in the United States, where he is the Howard G. B. Clark Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University. From 1999 to 2004 he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Paul Muldoon was given an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in 1996. Other recent awards include the 1994 T. S. Eliot Prize, the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, and the 2003 Griffin Prize.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

HARD DRIVE 

With my back to the wall 
and a foot in the door 
and my shoulder to the wheel
I would drive through Seskinore. 

With an ear to the ground 
and my neck on the block 
I would tend to my wound 
in Belleek and Bellanaleck.

With a toe in the water 
and a nose for trouble 
and an eye to the future 
I would drive through Derryfubble 

and Dunnamanagh and Ballynascreen,
  keeping that wound green. 

UNAPPROVED ROAD  

I

When we came to the customs post at Aughnacloy, as at Cullaville or Pettigoe,

I was holding my breath 
as if I might yet again be about to go 

underwater . . . The fortieth 
anniversary of 1916 had somehow fizzled out, the New Year's Eve attack
on Brookeborough ending in the deaths 

of O'Hanlon and South, while Dev was likely to bring back
internment without trial . . . As we drew 
level with the leveled shack 

I was met by another black-coated, long fellow, though he wore a sky-blue winding-cloth or scarf 
wrapped round his mouth and nose, leaving only a slit for him to peer through. 

II

"In the late fifties I was looking for a place," he nestled his coffee cup on its zarf 
and turned to me, thirty years later, in Rotterdam . . . 
"An ancestral place . . . A place my ancestors knew as Scairbh

na gCaorach." "Scairbh na gCaorach" I chewed on my foul madams, 
"is now better known as 'Emyvale' 
though the Irish name means 'the sheep-steeps' or 'the rampart of rams.' " 

" 'Rampart of rams?' That makes sense. It was the image of an outcrop of
shale 

with a particularly sheer
drop that my ancestors, the 'people of the veil,' 

held before them as they drove their flocks from tier to tier
through Algeria, Mali, and Libya all the way up to Armagh, Monaghan, and
Louth 

with -- you'll like this -- a total disregard for any frontier." 

III 

"Patrick Regan?" A black-coated R.U.C. man was unwrapping a scarf from
his mouth

and flicking back and forth from my uncle's license to his face. 
"Have you any news of young Sean South? 

The last I heard he was suffering from a bad case 
of lead poisoning. Maybe he's changed his name to Gone West?" 
I knew rightly he could trace 

us by way of that bottle of Redbreast
under my seat, that carton of Players, that bullion chest of butter.
I knew rightly we'd fail each and every test 

they might be preparing behind the heavy iron shutters 
even now being raised aloft 
by men carrying belt saws and blowtorches and bolt cutters. 

IV 

As he turned to me again, thirty years later in Rotterdam, the Tuareg doffed his sky-blue scarf "Back in those days I saw no risk
in sleeping under hedges. As a matter of fact I preferred a thorn hedge to a
hayloft 

because -- you'll like this -- it reminded me of the tamarisks
along the salt route into Timbuktu."
He crossed his forearms lightly under his armpits as if he might be about
to frisk

himself, then smiled as he handed me the sky-blue
winding-cloth and a clunking water gourd. 
"it had been my understanding that Scairbh na gCaorach meant 'the
crossing of ewes'

for scairbh means not 'a ledge' but 'a ford' or, more specifically, 'a
shallow ford.' " 

And he immediately set off at a jog trot down an unapproved road
near Aughnacloy or Swanlinbar or Lifford. 

Copyright © 2002 Paul Muldoon

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