In a typically mischievous sonnet, “October 1950” (from Why Brownlee Left), Paul Muldoon writes of the moment of his own conception:
Whatever it is, it comes down to this;
My father’s cock
Between my mother’s thighs.
Might he have forgotten to wind the clock?
The allusion here is to Laurence Sterne’s eighteenth century cock-and-bull story, Tristram Shandy, and the poem’s easy movement between bluntness and evasion – “Whatever it is, it leaves me in the dark” – might act as an index to the manner that has become known as ‘Muldoonian”: confessional but reticent, lucid but ambiguous, idiomatic but classically formed, artless but supremely erudite, …