Howard Martin, Boston College
'More than Glass': Transparent Boundaries, Reflection, and Photography in the Poetry of Paul Muldoon
Paul Muldoon's poems also examine the boundaries created by reflections and more indirectly through the moments in time encapsulated within photographs. The isolated woman of Muldoon's "Vampire" lines her walls with mirrors to create an illusion of depth, but she eventually removes them, favoring the reality of her physical body over the reflections. However, her physical life remains bound by her home. She steps outside only to retrieve her daily bottle of milk, and finds its cap punctured by a bird's beak. The punctured cap puts the shallow nature of the woman's life into relief and reveals that the removal of the mirrors has not removed the self-imposed boundaries of her routine. In "Cheesecake," a mother finds her son's collection of soft porn and reflects that the young women in these old photographs are her contemporaries. The photographs simultaneously preserve the youth of these women and disturb the mother's present view of her son and her own body. The camera lenses that produce these temporally disrupting images also appear in "Twice." The narrator recalls a friend racing from one end of a class picture to the other in order to appear twice in the slow-exposure photograph. In contrast to Louis MacNeice's view of glass in "Snow" which notes the separation between internal and external without breaking it, Muldoon's glass disturbs the boundaries between the internal and the external as well as the separation of present and past.