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

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

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

And the Pulitzer Prize winner has also just completed his 14th book of poems, Howdie Skelp – named after the slap a midwife gives a newborn baby.

You wouldn’t think the former poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine and BBC NI arts producer, who still teaches at Princeton University in New Jersey, would have much time 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 write an original piece to help the ‘ABC25’ cause.

On releasing his poem for the council, the son of a farmer from Armagh raised near the border of Co Tyrone just outside Moy, said he wanted to give something back to the place qu always called home.

“I hope that 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 draw people’s attention to the importance of standing up for and celebrate the creative arts at home,” he said.

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

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

Paul’s original poem is published in three special edition postcards for residents of the borough, each carrying a stanza dedicated 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 librettos, 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 main influences.

Raised as the eldest of three children of Patrick and teacher Brigid Muldoon at Collegeland, the Queen’s graduate was one of the early poets of the “Belfast Group” which 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 during 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 turned into the 2020 HBO mystery drama The Undoing, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant.

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

“Paul is a great ambassador for the creative talent that exists in the borough,” he said.

“He is a great example of homegrown talent, with his work highly respected around the world.

“The fact that our borough is a constant source of inspiration for his work underlines the importance of this place and the strong support generated for the candidacy of Cité de la culture.

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

The successful entrant will significantly benefit from millions of pounds of investment in social, economic and cultural regeneration initiatives and events which will be widely promoted across the UK and internationally.

This year’s winner will be announced in May.


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