The English Department at Pomona College is bringing two Pulitzer Prize-winning writers to campus this semester. Author Michael Cunningham spoke on Wednesday, Oct. 17, and on Thursday, Oct. 25, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon will give a reading at 4:15 p.m. in Crookshank Hall, Room 108.
Muldoon was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2003 for “Moy Sand and Grave: Poem.” When asked how he felt about winning one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the world, Muldoon wrote in an e-mail to TSL, “I was surprised and delighted by it. When I got the call from my publisher I refused to take it because I thought it was one of my friends playing a trick on me.”
Muldoon is currently a professor of English at Princeton University and poetry editor for The New Yorker.
“I became a person who tries to write poems mostly because I had such trouble getting through a sentence that I assumed it would take less time to write a poem than a short story or a novel,” Muldoon wrote. “It’s just about as simple as that!”
Muldoon was born on a farm near Portadown and was raised in a Catholic Family in Northern Ireland.
“I was very influenced by Irish literature in both English and Irish,” he wrote. “But I was also very influenced by Elizabethan English poetry and by French poetry of the 19th century. Not to speak of American poetry.”
Muldoon wrote that he was not the perfect student during his years at Queen’s University at Belfast.
“I squandered my university career,” Muldoon wrote. “I’ve had to make up for it since, I’m afraid. So I’m basically self-taught, I suppose. Home-schooled by myself.”
Muldoon is inspired by prose writers such as Sterne, Joyce and Beckett, and believes that this reading and writing has supplied his education.
“Learning to read a poem is a great way to learn to read a piece of prima facie evidence in a court of law, or even to read a patient with an as yet undiagnosed complaint,” he wrote.
Although he pictured himself more as a writer when he was in his teens and twenties than he does now, inspiration was never a problem for the poet.
“I get inspired by all sorts of things,” Muldoon wrote. “I want to write a poem about the rounded stones in the riverbed on Mars, for example.”
Among his poem collection, many of his love poems are charged with emotions and hold strong personal meaning.
“Perhaps all have a charge,” Muldoon wrote. “Particularly the elegies about people I loved.”