Interview by Donald H. Sanborn III | Photo by Denise Applewhite (University Photographer, Office of Communications).
Award-winning poet and Princeton University professor Paul Muldoon has edited Paul McCartney’s two-volume anthology, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present (published by Liveright, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company).
In his introduction Muldoon reveals that The Lyrics is “based on 24 separate meetings over a five-year period” between 2015 and 2020. He adds that most of the meetings “took place in New York, and each involved two or three hours of intensive conversation” in which he and McCartney discussed “six to eight songs.”
Last February McCartney visited, via Zoom, “How to Write a Song,” a Princeton University course Muldoon teaches with Bridget Kearney (a founding member of the Brooklyn-based, multi-genre band Lake Street Dive, and winner of the 2005 John Lennon Songwriting Contest in the Jazz Category). The website for the University’s Lewis Center for the Arts describes the course as an “introduction to the art of writing words for music, an art at the core of our literary tradition from the Beowulf poet through Lord Byron and Bessie Smith to Bob Dylan and the Notorious B.I.G.”
Muldoon also is at work on a rock musical, Athens, Georgia, an adaptation of the Frogs of Aristophanes. The music is by singer-songwriter Stew (Mark Stewart), co-composer of the Broadway musical Passing Strange. Muldoon says that this version has a “strong racial justice component.”
The Lewis Center’s website describes Athens, Georgia as an “up-to-date version” that “combines slapstick and social justice” and “features appearances by the rock god Dionysus, the guitar hero Hercules, Check Berry, Little Richard and, of course, the Real Housewives of Hades.” Athens, Georgia is the subject of a course offered by the Lewis Center, in which students have the opportunity to follow the development of the musical, which was commissioned by the Public Theater.
Muldoon’s 14th collection of poetry, Howdie-Skelp, is available from Macmillan. According to Macmillan’s website, the poems in Howdie-Skelp include a “nightmarish remake of ‘The Waste Land,’ an elegy for his fellow Northern Irish poet Ciaran Carson,” and “a heroic crown of sonnets that responds to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Muldoon will read from Howdie-Skelp at Labyrinth Books on March 1 (visit labyrinthbooks.com for details). more