students and Paul Muldoon’s “Quoof”

The session before last, I showed my CPIT students a range of different modern sonnets, ending with the least typical of all, Paul Muldoon’s Quoof.

It caused quite a lot of discussion. Among other things, why a poet would risk such an out-there image as

my hand on her breast
like the smouldering one-off spoor of the yeti
or some other shy beast
that has yet to enter the language.

from “Quoof” (Faber and Faber, 1983)

The really enjoyable thing (in retrospect at least) was that they didn’t want to let it go. I was trying to move them on to an exercise, but they were still nagged by the poem and its outrageous images. And rather than passing on as “too hard” or “well, I don’t get it” or “that’s just stupid”, they kept talking it through. Wonderful. I bet all of them will remember that image for some time. (Which, after all, is why you take that sort of risk. To make something new, and startling. And very very memorable.)

One of my students even wrote a short piece – spontaneously, not at my prompting – in response to the whole thing. Adrian has given me permission to reproduce it here. 


I met a Yeti, Himalayan born and bred
Who studied me, then flung snow in my face
Obscuring tracks the guide had said
Would lead to kingdoms of the creature.
History now altered by encounter:
Man on all fours, hirsute and red, untamed
A throw-back in his mountian empire, framed.
Yet how does one communicate with ancient time?
For him a blend of alien sound and mime. 

Adrian Cooper

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