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Horse Latitudes: Poems
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Horse Latitudes: Poems

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by Muldoon

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The title of Horse Latitudes, Paul Muldoon's tenth collection of poetry, refers to those areas thirty degrees north and south of the equator where sailing ships tend to be becalmed, where stasis (if not stagnation) is the order of the day. From Bosworth Field to Beijing, the Boyne to Bull Run, from a series of text messages to the nineteenth-century Irish poet


The title of Horse Latitudes, Paul Muldoon's tenth collection of poetry, refers to those areas thirty degrees north and south of the equator where sailing ships tend to be becalmed, where stasis (if not stagnation) is the order of the day. From Bosworth Field to Beijing, the Boyne to Bull Run, from a series of text messages to the nineteenth-century Irish poet Tom Moore to an elegy for Warren Zevon, and from post-Agreement Ireland to George W. Bush's America, this book presents us with fields of battle and fields of debate, in which we often seem to have come to a standstill, but in which language that has been debased may yet be restruck and made current to our predicament. Horse Latitudes is a triumphant new collection by one of the most esteemed poets of our time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Muldoon is undisputedly a master poet. Many of his poems distinctly take up the poetic tradition yet skew it with half-rhymes and unlikely subjects for classical forms, and also engage deeply with the troubled politics of his native Northern Ireland yet intertwine them with Muldoon's own personal history, mythology and esoteric symbolism. If these poems are reluctant to offer themselves to easy interpretation, they nonetheless seduce the reader into repeated readings in which they only grow more interesting, a sure sign of their capacity to last. In his 11th collection, the Pulitzer Prize-winner and former professor of poetry at Oxford (his Oxford lectures are being released concurrently) is as good as ever. Amid the usual parade of poetic forms (a riddle, haiku and pantoum, among others), he treats post-9/11 America ("those were my Twin Towers, right?"); aging, fatherhood and mortality ("a country toward which I've been rowing/ for fifty years"); the notion of "the old country" in a tour-de-force crown of sonnets ("Every escape was a narrow escape/ where every stroke was a broad stroke/ of an ax on a pig nape./ Every pig was a pig in a poke"); and the deaths of his sister and rocker Warren Zevon. With signature wit, Muldoon is preoccupied with the passage of time, the ways things change and stay the same, the distance between one culture and another, as well as the narrowing gap between high and popular culture. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Horses are the conveyance Pulitzer Prize winner Muldoon (Moy Sand and Gravel) uses to transport his readers through this new collection. The title refers to an area 30 degrees north and south of the equator in which sailing ships find themselves becalmed and where sailors might throw horses overboard to lighten the load. Yet, there is no stagnation in these poems. Playful language, political subtleties, and proclamations of grief gallop through Muldoon's melee of mythological and contemporary battles-disputes where turtles cover corpses, Bob Dylan returns to Princeton, and violins made from horse heads sing plaintively of destruction. Though his digressions can be difficult, the musicality of his line, as well as his joyous word plays and ironies, is worth the effort. Beginning with a sequence of sonnets whose titles start with the letter B, to a series of instant messages formatted as haiku, to an ending that tributes rocker Warren Zevon, readers are in for a lively ride: "in the afternoon, televangelists,/ push up and bench press with Buddhist and Parsi,/ ten thousand days after which you realized/ the flesh is indeed no more than a bruise." Recommended for contemporary poetry collections.-Karla Huston, Appleton Art Ctr., Appleton, WI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

“Paul Muldoon is a shape-shifting Proteus to readers who try to pin him down . . . Those who interrogate Muldoon's poems find themselves changing shapes each time he does. . .authentically touched or delighted.” —Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review

“Without question one of the most inventive poets writing in English today.” —Andrew Frisardi, The Boston Sunday Globe

Moy Sand and Gravel, Muldoon's ninth book of poems in twenty years, shimmers with play, the play of mind, the play of recondite information over ordinary experiences, the play of observation and sensuous detail, of motion upon custom, of Irish and English languages and landscapes, of meter and rhyme.” —Peter Davison, The New York Times Book Review

“[Moy Sand and Gravel] demonstrate[s] why [Muldoon] is regarded by many as the most sophisticated and original poet of his generation . . . dazzling.” —Mark Ford, The New York Review of Books

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.89(w) x 8.55(h) x 0.66(d)

Read an Excerpt



I could still hear the musicians

cajoling those thousands of clay

horses and horsemen through the squeeze

when I woke beside Carlotta.

Life-size, also. Also terra-cotta.

The sky was still a terra-cotta frieze

over which her grandfather still held sway

with the set square, fretsaw, stencil,

plumb line, and carpenter’s pencil

his grandfather brought from Roma.

Proud-fleshed Carlotta. Hypersarcoma.

For now our highest ambition

was simply to bear the light of the day

we had once been planning to seize.


The Nashville skyline’s hem and haw

as the freebooters who freeboot

through their contractual mire and murk,

like Normans stampeding dozens

of cows into their Norse-Irish cousins,

were balking now at this massive breastwork

they themselves had thrown up. The pile of toot

on a mirror. The hip-hirple

of a white horse against purple.

Age-old traductions I could trace

from freebasers pretending they freebase

to this inescapable flaw

hidden by Carlotta’s close-knit wet suit

like a heart-wound by a hauberk.


Though he was mounted on a cob

rather than a warhorse, the Bruce

still managed to sidestep a spear

from Henry de Bohun and tax

de Bohun’s poll with his broad-based poleax

and leave de Bohun’s charger somewhat leer.

Her grandfather had yet to find a use

for the two-timing partisan

his grandfather brought man-to-man

against all those Ferdinandies

until he saw it might come in handy

for whacking the thingammybobs

off pine and fir, off pine and fir and spruce

and all such trees as volunteer.


Off the elm, the ancient pollard

that a Flemish painter might love,

that comes to shun the attention

of its headstrong days, so is proof

against the storm that takes its neighbor’s roof.

Her nonno collects his pension

knowing that when push really came to shove

he had it within him to wrap

his legs in puttees and backslap

those pack mules down that moonlit deck,

Carlotta now wearing a halter-neck

under the long-sleeved, high-collared

wet suit whereof . . . whereof . . . whereof . . . whereof

I needs must again make mention.


Her wet suit like a coat of mail

worn by a French knight from the time

a knight could still cause a ruction

by direct-charging his rouncy

when an Englishman’s home was his bouncy

castle, when abduction and seduction

went hand in glove. Now Carlotta would climb

from the hotel pool in Nashville,

take off her mask, and set a spill

to a Gauloise as one might set

a spill to the fuse of a falconet

and the walls of her chest assail.

The French, meanwhile, were still struggling to prime

their weapons of mass destruction.


It was clear now, through the pell-mell

of bombard- and basilisk-mist,

that the Stanleys had done the dirt

on him and taken Henry’s side.

Now Richard’s very blood seemed to have shied

away from him, seemed to sputter and spurt

like a falcon sheering off from his wrist

as he tried to distance himself

from the same falchioneer who’d pelf

the crown from his blood-matted brow

and hang it in a tree. Less clear was how

he’d managed not to crack the shell

of the pigeon egg the size of a cyst

he’d held so close inside his shirt.


As I had held Carlotta close

that night we watched some Xenophon

embedded with the 5th Marines

in the old Sunni Triangle

make a half-assed attempt to untangle

the ghastly from the price of gasoline.

There was a distant fanfaron

in the Nashville sky, where the wind

had now drawn itself up and pinned

on her breast a Texaco star.

"Why," Carlotta wondered, "the House of Tar?

Might it have to do with the gross

imports of crude oil Bush will come clean on

only when the Tigris comes clean?"


Those impromptu chevaux-de-frise

into which they galloped full tilt

and impaled themselves have all but

thrown off their balance the banner-

bearing Scots determined to put manners

on the beech mast- and cress- and hazelnut-

eating Irish. However jerry-built,

those chevaux-de-frise have embogged

the horses whose manes they had hogged

so lovingly and decked with knots

of heather, horses rooted to the spots

on which they go down on their knees

as they unwind their shoulder plaids and kilts,

the checkered careers of their guts.


The blood slick from the horse slaughter

I could no longer disregard

as Carlotta surfaced like barm.

My putting her through her paces

as she kicked and kicked against the traces

like a pack mule kicking from a yardarm

before it fell, heehaw, in the dockyard.

A banner’s frittering tassel

or deflating bouncy castle

was something to which she paid heed

whereas that vision of a milk-white steed

drinking from a tub of water

and breathing hard, breathing a little hard,

had barely set off an alarm.


Small birds were sounding the alert

as I followed her unladen

steed through a dell so dark and dank

she might have sported the waders

her grandfather had worn at the nadir

of his career, scouring the Outer Banks

for mummichog and menhaden.

Those weeks and months in the doldrums

coming back as he ran his thumb

along an old venetian blind

in the hope that something might come to mind,

that he might yet animadvert

the maiden name of that Iron Maiden

on which he was drawing a blank.

Excerpted from Horse Latitudes by Paul Muldoon.

Copyright 2006 by Paul Muldoon.

Published in 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

Paul Muldoon is the author of nine books of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Moy Sand and Gravel (FSG, 2002). He teaches at Princeton University and, between1999 and 2004, was professor of poetry at Oxford University.

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