Literature Annotations

Muldoon, Paul
The Birth

Genre Poem
KeywordsChildbirth, Father-Daughter Relationship, Parenthood, Pregnancy

The Birth, appropriately, is the last of the three birth-cycle poems in The Annals of Chile, Muldoon's latest collection. The three together (all annotated in this database--see Sonogram and Footling) celebrate three aspects of the gestation and delivery of the poet's new daughter.

Beginning with the poet's donning a scrub suit ("lime-green scrubs"), the poem quickly explodes into a festive pyrotechnics that reminds one of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Joyce: ". . . the windlass-women ply their shears / and gralloch-grub / for a footling foot, then, warming to their task, / haul into the inestimable / realm of apple-blossoms and chanterelles and damsons / and eel-spears. . . . "

It takes courage and skill to carry off such a verbal tour de force but Muldoon aptly does so, charging the poem with the newness, sheer power of wonder, and joy of loving a thing for itself that his daughter's birth means to him. This is a joyous poem that can almost visibly demonstrate to students how poetry gets its job done. It may even make more than a few try their hand.

SourceThe Annals of Chile
PublisherFarrar, Straus & Giroux
Place PublishedNew York
Annotated by Ratzan, Richard M.
Date of Entry 05/11/95
Last Revised 10/17/96