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For immediate release: April 7, 2003
Contact: Eric Quiñones, (609) 258-5748, quinones@princeton.edu

Editors: Photos are available at: http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pictures/l-r/muldoon/

Muldoon wins 2003 Pulitzer Prize for poetry

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Paul Muldoon, the Howard Clark '21 University Professor in the Humanities at Princeton, today won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his latest collection, "Moy Sand and Gravel."

Muldoon is also a professor in the Council of the Humanities and creative writing and chair of the Fund for Irish Studies. "Moy Sand and Gravel" is his 25th volume of poetry and the ninth collection of his poems.

"It's a terrific honor," said Muldoon, who said he was shoveling snow when he got the call from his publisher. "It comes as a complete shock and surprise."

The Pulitzer Prize for poetry recognizes a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author. The poems in "Moy Sand and Gravel," published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2002, take readers from Muldoon's native Ireland in the 1950s to present-day New Jersey. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly said Muldoon is "one of the English-speaking world's most acclaimed poets still at the top of his slippery, virtuosic game."

The book also recently was short-listed for the international Griffin Prize for Excellence in Poetry. In addition, it was the winter 2002 choice of the Poetry Book Society for the best book of poems published in that season.

"It's certainly well deserved," said poet C.K. Williams, who also is on Princeton's creative writing faculty and won a Pulitzer in 2000. "He's a very unique poet. The fact that he wins prizes on both sides of the Atlantic is great proof of that uniqueness -- he's valued as much in the United Kingdom and Ireland as he is here."

"One of the nice things about it is that several of my colleagues at Princeton are Pulitzer Prize winners," Muldoon said. "I'm delighted for my sake and for Princeton's sake." Other Pulitzer Prize winners on the creative writing program faculty include poet Yusef Komunyakaa and authors John McPhee and Toni Morrison.

Muldoon was born in Northern Ireland and moved to the United States in 1987. He joined the Princeton faculty as a lecturer in 1990 and was named a full professor in 1995. He directed the University's Program in Creative Writing from 1993 until 2002. In 1999, he was elected to also serve as a professor of poetry at the University of Oxford.

Muldoon's other collections of poetry are "New Weather" (1973), "Mules" (1977), "Why Brownlee Left" (1980), "Quoof" (1983), "Meeting the British" (1987), "Madoc: A Mystery" (1990), "The Annals of Chile" (1994), "Hay" (1998) and "Poems 1968-1998" (2001). He also has published in the fields of drama, literary criticism, translation and children's literature. His work has been the subject of readings, lectures, conference papers and theses by students and scholars from around the globe.

"Paul Muldoon is a world-class poet like Seamus Heaney or Derek Walcott, which is obvious in his interest in translation, which he teaches at Princeton," said Edmund White, director of the creative writing program. "His own poetry is a record of his interest both in American and Irish dialects. He is a spirited, playful, encouraging teacher -- and those are all qualities that derive from his poetry."

A fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Muldoon was given an American Academy of Arts and Letters award in literature in 1996. His other awards include the 1994 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry and the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize.

"Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan is said to have remarked that being Irish means knowing 'the world is going to break your heart,'" said Carol Rigolot, executive director of the Council of the Humanities. "But being Irish -- and being Paul Muldoon -- can also mean earning wonderfully-deserved honors like the Pulitzer Prize. We are blessed to have Paul Muldoon among us."

A.J. Verdelle, a lecturer in humanities, creative writing and African-American studies, praised Muldoon's "elaborate diction, complicated thinking, the significance of the lines he so meticulously constructs -- some whimsy notwithstanding. I just said to Paul the other day, 'After I hear you read your poems, I always want to study them.'"

"He's a great poet, and, more importantly, my favorite," said James Richardson, a faculty member in English and creative writing. "His selection does honor to the Pulitzer."

Two Princeton alumni also won 2003 Pulitzer Prizes: author Robert Caro, a 1957 Princeton graduate, who won the biography prize for "Master of the Senate"; and New York Times reporter Clifford Levy, a 1989 Princeton graduate, who won the investigative reporting prize for a series on the abuse of mentally ill adults in New York state-regulated homes.

Two other winners also have Princeton connections. Nilo Cruz, who won for his drama, "Anna in the Tropics," has a long association with Princeton's McCarter Theatre Center. McCarter will open its new 360-seat Roger Berlind Theatre with "Anna in the Tropics" Sept. 9 through Oct. 19. Jeffrey Eugenides, who won in fiction for his novel, "Middlesex," taught in the creative writing program in 1999-2000.

The Pulitzers are presented at a luncheon in late May at Columbia University, which awards the prizes on recommendations of an 18-member board.

Selected poems from Muldoon's book, "Moy Sand and Gravel," can be read online.