UCD College of Arts and Humanities Announces its Inaugural Annual College Lecture 

The UCD College of Arts & Humanities is launching its Annual College Lecture Series on 23rd November 2017. The Inaugural Annual College Lecture will take place at 6.30pm, 23rd November in Theatre Q, Newman Building and is being hosted by UCD School of Irish, Celtic Studies and Folklore. Admission is free but RSVP is essential: artslecture@ucd.ie. At the very heart of the academic calendar, the Annual College Lecture Series will bring together scholars, writers and members of the creative community to celebrate Ireland’s cultural contributions on a global scale. The inaugural lecture will be delivered by the Pulitzer prize-winning poet and current Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities at Princeton, Paul Muldoon. Closely associated with the propagation of Gaelic culture at home and abroad over the last fifty years, Muldoon perfectly encapsulates the value of understanding cultural continuums and the possible dialogues between different places, people and periods. He is uniquely positioned to foreground the continued relevance of the Arts and Humanities in the globalised twenty-first century.

Entitled “The Drowned Blackbird: An Introduction to 18th Century Ulster Poetry,” this lecture will explore the rich heritage of Gaelic poetry in South East Ulster and examine what poets such as Peadar Ó Doirnín, Art Mac Chumhaigh and Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta can teach us today about the role of the writer within their community, both national and international. These poets, part of the Airgialla tradition of poetry and song, addressed the political upheavals of the period, in particular the subjugation of the indigenous Irish by the English conquerors. The importance of this tradition in Gaelic poetry has now become vital to appreciating Muldoon’s own work, especially given his interest in the physicality and the musicality of language, and his recent work with rock lyrics, which perfectly captures the ideal of experiencing the poem as something that is read and heard.  

 The title of the lecture refers to Mac Cuarta’s poem “An Londubh Báite” (“The Drowned Blackbird”), which is meant to console a young girl whose pet blackbird has been drowned in a tub of whitewash, and which Muldoon himself has translated on two separate occasions, 1970 and 1998. The Drowned Blackbird is an apt figure for Muldoon’s work and the important questions it raises about preserving existing cultures and the possibilities of cultural hybridity in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The poet as translator, as someone positioned between two languages and cultures, must necessarily negotiate the tendency of one being superseded by the other and avoid the whitewashing so often practised when attempting to redeem the largely submerged culture through translation into the dominant counterpart.

Since the publication of his first collection, New Weather, in 1973, Muldoon’s poetry is notable for the dialogue between prosodic Gaelic and English worlds and the irrepressible syncretism that characterises Anglo-Irish literature. Through his use of obscure and archaic words, verbal punning, eclectic iconoclasm and his almost improvisatory approach to conventional rhyming structures and received poetic forms, Muldoon’s oeuvre testifies to the coexistence of two distinct languages and cultures. The resultant commingling of different people, places and periods speaks to the possibility of dwelling comparatively in otherwise juxtaposed languages and cultures. In a time of increased nationalism and isolationism in political debates surrounding citizenship and cultural histories, Muldoon’s introduction to 18th Century Ulster Poetry will serve to highlight the importance of hybridity and syncretism over monoculturalism, and the need to recognize different cultures as integrated not segregated, as coterminous not anachronistic; always speaking to each other across both ideological and experiential borders for those who care to listen. 


About the Author: Paul Muldoon is the author of over thirty collections and winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize (1994), the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry (1997), the Griffin Poetry Prize (2003) and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (2003). Muldoon was also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1990), was Oxford Professor of Poetry (1999-2004) and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Born in Portadown in 1951 and brought up near a village called The Moy on the border of counties Armagh and Tyrone, he studied at Queen’s University Belfast, where he met Seamus Heaney and became associated with the Belfast Group of Poets, which included Michael Longley, Ciaran Carson, Medhbh Mc Guckian and Frank Ormsby. After working as an arts producer for the BBC in Belfast for thirteen years, Muldoon emigrated to the United States and has taught at Princeton University since 1987. Amongst his most notable collections are One Thousand Things Worth Knowing (2015), Maggot (2010), Horse Latitudes (2006), Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), Hay (1998), The Annals of Chile (1994), Madoc: A Mystery (1990), Meeting the British (1987), Quoof (1983), Why Brownlee Left (1980), Mules (1977) and New Weather (1973). More recently, Muldoon has written rock lyrics for his own bands Racket, Wayside Shrines and Rogue Oliphant, and which have been collected together in Songs and Sonnets (2012) and The Words on the Street (2013).