Armagh City of Culture bid: Why poetry is as easy as ‘ABC’ for the tireless Pulitzer-winner Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon turns 71 later this year but is showing no signs of slowing down.

he renowned Co Armagh poet recently published, along with Sir Paul McCartney, The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present, an acclaimed two-volume set of books about the words to 154 of the former Beatle’s most enduring songs.

And the Pulitzer Prize winner has also just finished his 14th collection of poems, Howdie Skelp — named after the slap a midwife gives to a newborn child.

You wouldn’t think the former poetry editor for The New Yorker magazine and BBC NI arts producer, who still lectures at Princeton University in New Jersey, would have long for anything else.

But he was happy to answer a call from the people behind Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2025 and pen an original work to help the ‘ABC25’ cause.

On the release of his poem for the council, the son of an Armagh farmer brought up close to the Co Tyrone border just outside Moy, said he wanted to give something back to the place he has always called home.

“I hope by sharing my thoughts and words with the people of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon ​​I can evoke a sense of pride in the borough, and focus people’s attention on the importance of championing and celebrating creative arts at home,” he said.

“The authenticity of the people and places that have shaped its cultural and historic landscape richly deserve to be celebrated across the UK and internationally.

“This is an amazing opportunity for the people of the borough and I would urge everyone to support the bid.”

Paul’s original poem is being released in three special edition postcards to residents across the borough, with each conveying one stanza devoted to each of the three areas.

His literary career is extensive with works such as New Weather, Why Brownlee Left, Quoof, Hay, and Moy Sand And Gravel, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.

He has also published children’s books, opera libretti, song lyrics, lectures and works for radio and television.

Acclaimed for the cryptic wordplay present in many poems, often referred to as Joycean, he cites lyric poets such as Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, and Louis MacNeice as his major influences.

Brought up as the eldest of Patrick and school teacher Brigid Muldoon’s three children in Collegeland, the Queen’s graduate was one of the original ‘Belfast Group’ of poets that included Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Derek Mahon.

He lives in the United States with his American novelist wife Jean Hanff Korelitz (60), whom he met at a creative writing course.

Jean is perhaps best known on this side of the Atlantic for her fifth novel, You Should Have Known, which was made into the 2020 HBO mystery drama The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon ​​Lord Mayor Glenn Barr said the gifted poet is a fantastic example of the artistic ability of those who hail from here.

“Paul is an excellent ambassador for the creative talent that exists within the borough,” he said.

“He is a prime example of home-grown talent, with his work highly respected worldwide.

“The fact that our borough is a constant source of inspiration for his work highlights the significance of this place, and the strong support generated for the City of Culture bid.”

Northern Ireland last won the prize with Derry/Londonderry in 2013.

The successful entrant will benefit significantly from millions of pounds of investment in social, economic and culture-led regeneration initiatives and events that will be extensively promoted across the UK and internationally.

This year’s winner will be announced in May.

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