‘Walnuts’ by Paul Muldoon, from upcoming publication Dislocations: The Selected Innovative Poems of Paul Muldoon

Dislocations: The Selected Innovative Poems of Paul Muldoon will be publishing in October 2020. In this volume, poet John Kinsella presents a selection of Paul Muldoon’s most linguistically innovative and overtly ‘experimental’ poems. Kinsella’s introduction explores the complex politics of language and the dissection of ‘New World’–‘Old World’ (false) verbal dynamics that inform Muldoon’s writing.

To coincide with our focus on Poetry during May as part of our #LUP120 celebrations, we have one of Paul Muldoon’s uncollected poems to share: ‘Walnuts’, selected by John Kinsella.


Bringing to mind the hemispheres of the brain in the brainpan,
these walnut halves are as ripe
for pickling now as in 860, the dye in a Viking girl’s under-dress
then being derived from walnut husks. I hear you stifle
a yawn when I note that steamed
black walnut is generally held to be inferior to kiln-dried
while the term à la mode de Caen
refers specifically to the braising of tripe
in apple cider. I who have been at the mercy of the cider-press
have also been known to trifle
with the affections of a dryad in a sacred grove,
a judge’s daughter and a between-maid to Lord Mountbatten
among others from beyond my clan.
It was only as recently as 1824 we first used the term “to snipe.”
Walnut was the go-to stock wood for both Brown Bess
and the Lee-Enfield bolt-action, magazine-fed, repeating rifle.
Each has seen service on the shores of Lough Erne
in the hands of both wood-kernes and followers of the First Earl.

Our own interpersonal relationships have tended to be so askew
it was only as recently as 1844 we first used the term “scarf”
of the neck-garter. Girding up the loins
for a family feud has often proved the more fecund
line of inquiry. Walnuts are now deemed
good against malignancies of breast and prostate – not only tried
but tried and true. From time to time you
and I have met on a windswept airfield or wharf
where we’ve seen fit to join
battle without ever having reckoned
on how the Irish law on treasure trove
would change in the light of the Derrynaflan paten
never mind King Sitric being the son-in-law of King Brian Boru
who prevailed over him at Clontarf
or, at the Boyne,
William of Orange’s putting paid to his father-in-law, James II.
It was at the Boyne, you recall, that Ahern
gave Paisley the “peace bowl” turned from a local walnut-burl.

For more information on Dislocations: The Selected Innovative Poems of Paul Muldoon, please visit our website.

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