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This review is taken from PN Review 206, Volume 38 Number 6, July - August 2012.

Sure, Fierce, Luminous michael murphy, Collected Poems (Shoestring Press) £10.50

In his Collected Poems Michael Murphy explores notions of exile. Murphy was born in Liverpool in 1965 to an Irish mother and American father and brought up by adoptive parents; as an adult he made contact with his mother's family and spent time in Mayo. His work yields a number of recurring motifs: Rothko, Liverpool, Attila József, ghosts, empty rooms, the quality of light. All are employed in the service of his investigations into identity, displacement and the search for home.

From the first poem, 'Glaucus to Scylla (after Ovid)', Murphy evokes the sense of being stranded between two places. Even before his transformation into a god, Glaucus was a youthful fisherman used to

sitting on the margin here, a strand
between green meadows and the glitter
and wrack of the amethyst tide.

After munching a magical herb - here 'turf' - Glaucus is transformed into a water god and lost to the earth. Re-homed in water, he still desires earthly things - the poem is his declaration of love to the water nymph Scylla. Murphy's poem is an interesting mix of highbrow diction ('my headstrong blood bid me kneel') and colloquialisms ('Come on in ... the water's fine') and has an abundance of energy, pace and knowing humour.

Murphy's second poem picks up the turf from the first and leads us to a turf-dark shed in Mayo, and from there to 'A Corrugated Shed', which Murphy ...


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