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The Word on the Street: Rock Lyricsby Paul Muldoon
Synopses & Reviews
A vibrant new collection of poems—that also double as rock songs—from the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet
In his new book of rock lyrics, Paul Muldoon goes back to the essential meaning of the term “lyric”—a short poem sung to the accompaniment of a musical instrument. These words are written for music most assuredly, with half an ear to Yeatss ballad-singing porter drinkers and half to Cole Porter—and indeed, many of them double as rock songs, performed by Wayside Shrines, the Princeton-based music collective of which Muldoon is a member. Their themes are the classic themes of song: lost love, lost wars, Charlton Heston, barbed wire, pole dancers, cellulite, Hegel, elephants, Oedipus, more barbed wire, Buddy Holly, Jersey peaches, Julius Caesar, Trenton, cockatoos, and the Youngers (Bob and John and Jim and Cole). The Word on the Street is a lively addition to this Pulitzer Prize-winning poets masterful body of work. It demonstrates, once again, that, as Richard Eder has written in the pages of The New York Times Book Review, “Paul Muldoon is a shape-shifting Proteus to readers who try to pin him down . . . Those who interrogate Muldoons poems find themselves changing shapes each time he does.”
"In addition to his 11 books of poetry, the Irish poet has long produced words for singers, first with the opera composer D.A. Hagen and latterly with his own rock band, Wayside Shrines. This first collection of Muldoon's rock lyrics shares topics and effects with his best-known poems: they are knowing, at times risque, elaborately playful in their vocabulary, and fascinated by self-destruction, drug addiction, Irish heritage, and working-class New Jersey. They can wink at the listener, or revel in names: Ian Dury, 'Lennon and McCartney,' Elizabeth Bowen (rhymed with Leonard Cohen), Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire, Botticelli, Machiavelli, 'Clint.' At the same time they have the simple and singable syntax and rhyme schemes that rock songs often need, suggesting sometimes Muldoon's idol Warren Zevon. Remembering a big sign on a bridge over the Delaware River ('Trenton Makes, the World Takes') the mopey, comic breakup song 'Over You' begins 'The things they make in Trenton/ Are taken by the world/ You were made in Trenton/ I took you for my girl.' Like most rock lyrics, these seem thin apart from their music — no careful admirer would mistake them for Muldoon's strongest poems, though they nonetheless offer many pleasures." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Paul Muldoon is the author of eleven books of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Moy Sand and Gravel (FSG, 2002) and, most recently, Maggot (FSG, 2010). He is the Howard G. B. Clark University Professor at Princeton.
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