Paul Muldoon, ‘Something Else’ (1987)

When your lobster was lifted out of the tank
to be weighed
I thought of woad,
of madders, of fugitive, indigo inks,

of how Nerval
was given to promenade
a lobster on a gossamer thread,
how, when a decent interval

had passed
(son front rouge encor du baiser de la reine)
and his hopes of Adrienne

proved false,
he hanged himself from a lamp-post
with a length of chain, which made me think

of something else, then something else again.


~ by ohkrapp on May 21, 2008.

4 Responses to “Paul Muldoon, ‘Something Else’ (1987)”

  1. I got to see Muldoon speak the other night. He’s apparently (I didn’t know his work before) one of the major post-war poets: pulitzer, etc. He’s also the poetry editor for The New Yorker… I had no idea what was going on the first time I read this, so a few comments for the first-time reader…

    Nerval was the arch-romantic French poet. He allegedly had a lobster that he used to ‘promenade’ around town on a leash. Insane and impoverished, he hanged himself in 1855. Adrienne was his muse of sorts, and the subject of the cycle of poems from which the French here is taken.

    The first stanza is the changes in color the lobster goes through when boiled. ‘Woad’ and ‘madders’ are types of flowers used in dyes.

    Note these rhymes: nerval/interval, promenade/thread, reine/adrienne/again

    also: the gossamer thread leash becomes the ‘length of chain’ he hangs himself with.

    the more directly causal associations made at the start of the poem (lobster/color) give way to the open-ended associations at the poem’s end: something else, something else again, which is yet another thread/chain.

    anyway, it’s a modest little poem but i like it. let me know what else you see in it..

  2. and i guess i should say this whenever i post a poem not in the public domain..

    this poem is available in the 1987 collection, Meeting the British. There is also an edition of his collected works published by FSG.

  3. and, finally. the french…

    ‘his brow still red from the queen’s kiss’

    ‘encor’ is the old poetic form of ‘encore,’ apparently. not a typo.

  4. […] been able to forget it. However, I recently had a “gossamer” epiphany, in the form of this poem. See? He even rhymes “gossamer” and “lobster” – and it works! Surely proof […]

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