Horse Latitudes Poems

Paul Muldoon

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

120 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
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 stand becalmed in mid-ocean, where stasis (if not stagnation) is the order of the day, and where sailors, in the days when Spanish vessels transported horses to the West Indies, would throw their live cargo overboard to lighten the load and conserve food and water. From Bosworth Field to Beijing, from the Battle of the Boyne to Bull Run, from a series of text messages written 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. Weaving between popular song and riddle, between haiku and densely compressed narrative, Horse Latitudes is a new collection by an esteemed poet.


Praise for Horse Latitudes

"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."—Richard Eder, The New York Times Book Review

“We find here familiar Muldoon turns . . . the historical allusions; the jokey language (from Spenserian ‘eftsoons’ to Wild West ‘wrastle’); the slang (‘toot’ for ‘dung’); the interpolated low-style commentary phrase . . . the puns and the sonic play . . . the glance at contemporary absurdity . . . Nothing exhilarates this poet more than an elaborate scheme that both provokes and confines the words or the rhymes that will fill it out . . . nobody else writes like this. Muldoon has made an unmistakable style for himself, in both short poems and long. From the beginning, he has added to the lyrics of each volume a more elaborate longer poem, sometimes narrative and sometimes lyric . . . Age has deepened Muldoon's poetry, and in Horse Latitudes he has been able, in his finely maintained tightrope act, to bear aloft both grief and playfulness. He is still enamored of the absolutely arbitrary, and he may always be attracted to abstract schemes, since he belongs to that line of poets (from Herbert through Auden to Moore, Merrill, and Ashbery) who find in the most arbitrary poetic forms an entrancing stimulus to imagination and expression. For Muldoon, tragic stories in arbitrary cages make for the ultimate effect: ‘a gloom . . . distinctly shot through with glee,’ unnerving for the exasperated and admiring reader, but true to the mixed motives of the serious shadowplay of art.”—Helen Vendler, The New Republic

“His verse is stunning, arresting in the way a stun gun stuns.  A dazzler, a trickster, prankster, songster and master feigner, Muldoon is a virtuoso, swooping in his latest book of poems, Horse Latitudes, from Beijing to bling, Italian anti-fascist partisans to coke-snorting rock stars . . . There is a strong emotional and intellectual pulse to every poem that allows a reader to get the gists and piths of sense even when some specifics slide by . . . Muldoon’s prodigious energy is here harnessed, productively, to the theme of stasis and loss . . . What Muldoon puts together is so complex, so rich and so resonant that his work makes that of many other poets look positively impoverished in thought, feeling, conceit, music and lexis . . . Anyone who seriously reads poetry agrees that Muldoon is a master.”—Maureen N. McLane, Chicago Tribune

"Muldoon is . . . a master technician whose latest volume demonstrates an ease with sonnets, sestinas and satire.  Drawing equally on both popular and classical culture for inspiration, the work in this collection reaffirms his range and brilliance, while making a forceful argument for poetry's continued urgency and relevance."—Los Angeles Times

“[Muldoon’s] poems should be essential . . . reading for any fan of contemporary poetry . . . I struggle . . . to think of another living poet as daring and as challenging to the intellect . . . For those who go to poetry for the mysteries of language and meaning, one can scarcely do better.”—David Lucas, The Plain Dealer

“Wit-visored for modesty’s sake, he’s the victor in his gallant poetic tournament. Dexterous jest and jouster, Muldoon is bold, moving, and tender at will. His tenth collection, Horse Latitudes, is brilliant.”—Marie Ponsot, Commonweal

“Though motifs of stasis and loss abound here . . . Muldoon’s language is anything but becalmed: he writes in a dizzying array of forms, from haikus to villanelles to sonnets.”—Poetry Foundation

"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 . . . 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."—Library Journal
"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 . . . [The poems] 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."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads



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

Read the full excerpt


  • Paul Muldoon

  • Paul Muldoon is the author of nine previous books of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Moy Sand and Gravel. He teaches at Princeton University and, between 1999 and 2004, was professor of poetry at Oxford University.
  • Paul Muldoon Peter Cook