The first time I heard Paul Muldoon reading his poetry was at the West Cork Literary Festival
in Bantry 2012. Along with the rest of the audience I was bedazzled by the displays of
linguistic virtuosity that characterise a Muldoon performance. Yet it was the simplest of lines
that remained with me from the poem The Old Country. In its twisted cliches and musical
repetition, the poem speaks ironically of a time in Ireland when the old certainties were intact
and “every town was a tidy town.”

“But every boy was still “one of the boys”
and every girl “ye girl ye”

for whom every dance was a last dance
and every chance a last chance
and every letdown a terrible letdown

from the days when every list was a laundry list
in that old country where, we reminisced,
every town was a tidy town.”

The next time I saw Muldoon was at the 1916 commemoration taking place at Collins
Barracks Dublin at Easter 2016. With his blue-tinged spectacles and rock star credentials, the
impression Muldoon gave was less father of the nation than its cool uncle. While the poet
was taking on a Laureate-type role at the ceremonies, there was still anger and irony. Of the

he writes: “flute bands and bandoliers

the slogan heard above the slew
bloody assassination
the red hand’s lámh dhearg abú
the bomb’s abominations
some didn’t live to see it through”

Six years later and Muldoon is coming to Kinsale Arts Weekend. We are honoured, and not a
little relieved. It very nearly didn’t happen. I first started communicating with the poet three
years ago in September 2019. Looking back over the 34-email thread of our correspondence,
I am so grateful that through all the changes, cancellations and revisions, Muldoon has kept
the faith with Kinsale Arts Weekend. After all our best-laid, Covid-scuppered plans, we are
really looking forward to hearing Paul Muldoon’s unique voice here in Kinsale this summer.
It is particularly satisfying that Muldoon is making time to conduct a workshop with
emerging poets. They will relish this opportunity to learn from a master of the craft.


Fiona Smith