Paul Muldoon – Binge  (The Lifeboat)



Judges’ Comments

The judges were delighted by the great energy and inventiveness of these poems, their formal and linguistic brio and the emu-like way they seem to digest almost any subject matter. Some poems address landscape and life in Northern Ireland, others address friends and alert us to wonders and strangeness around the globe. The poetry can be very much of the moment – the title poem is a fantasia on a week’s news stories from The Times –, but it also ranges back across millennia of culture and history. Along the way, deadly serious observations rub against genuinely funny jokes. Paul Muldoon may be a long established presence, but this pamphlet is wonderfully fresh.


A Ruin


It might have been a gristmill, a dilapidated granary or grange

I first drove by some sixty years ago

and, with my little eye, espied

through a door-frame the tousled ferns

and red-haired dockens

of kids my own age sent out to play in the snow,

their snowballs

so specific in the sprawl.

Windowless now, roofless, tucked


under the first, sheltering hill of a range

that ran all the way to Mexico —

a country into which we still hoped to ride

hell-for-leather, still hoped to adjourn

after the stick-up — this ruin betokens

not only the slo-mo-

mowing of a meadow for a shopping mall

but the fate that would befall

the many tagged and retagged


over those sixty years. The landscape is so marked by change,

the bungled peace process, the shoddy bungalows,

the wind farms taking us in their stride,

so marked by all the turns

things have taken

for kids now summoned back from playing in the snow,

the nettles almost as tall


as its dividing wall,

a ruin seems the only thing intact.




The 2020 Shortlists

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