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018  Hammer, Langdon. “Gamesmanship.”  Rev. of Horse Latitudes and The End of the Poem by Paul Muldoon.  New York Times Book Review  18 February 2007: 24.

Although Paul Muldoon won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for his last collection of poems. Moy Sand and Gravel, and though he served from 1999-2004 as professor of poetry at Oxford University, many readers wonder if he is really a serious poet: his "poetry is too full of games, too obscure, too clever," according to Langdon Hammer.  Muldoon approaches serious subjects that evoke anger, nostalgia, and grief, but he does so with verbal play.  As poet-speaker he writes of comic book characters in rhymes that "veer up and down the scale of diction from toot/freeboot to murk/hauberk."  The second book Hammer is reviewing, The End of the Poem, is a collection of the lectures he delivered at Oxford on seventeen poems he choose to say "what he want[ed] to about poems that fascinate him."  Among poems he feels have been overlooked is Robert Frost's "The Mountain" and Elizabeth Bishop's "12 O'clock News."  Muldoon takes these favorite poems apart finding in each a web of intertextual connections that lead in multiple directions.  However, he is concerned mostly with how these poems came into being.  His discussion of Emily Dickinson's "I Tried to Think a Lonelier Thing" is "a special tour de force," Hammer declares.  Muldoon "broods" on several images, at last finding the poem to be Dickinson's search for God and for a reader.  All of such discussions in this book make Hammer say, "Muldoon is undoubtedly writing about his own motives for writing."  Muldoon's technical performance in Horse Latitudes demonstrate how he hides his motives for writing by capturing the reader's interest through his mastery of varied forms: a sestina, a pantoum, 23 pages of rhymed haiku, a poem of 100 lines of quatrains that is only one sentence, several song forms with refrains, and the title poem which is made of 19 sonnets.  Hammer's conclusion about Muldoon is that he is indeed a serious poet, but one that readers will continue to questions just as they question the art of Jonathan Swift and James Joyce.

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