Archive for July, 2008

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Review: Below the Spruce

July 27, 2008

Blogger Rowe reviews The Rush to Here. Very nice to see citizen journalists filling in the critical gaps as the book sections die out. First and last paragraphs of the full review excerpted below. Thanks for the kind words, Stephen Rowe.

At some point in their writing careers, most poets will try their hand a sonnet or two. There’s almost a sense that in order to be a successful poet one must prove an ability to write a successful sonnet. This is probably a burden self-imposed upon poets due to the enormous weight of The Tradition. For centuries the sonnet has been one of the most standard forms of poetry in English and many masters have developed and added to the form over the years (think of Shakespeare, Donne, Hopkins, Rossetti, St. Vincent Millay, and Cummings to name a few), leaving writers of today with a wealth of building blocks from which to construct their own contributions.

In an age when writers often produce works in the style of their own mentors, merely continuing an already established tradition, George Murray has created something new for poetry that others can add to their repertoires. He has, in a sense, inked his own stamp on form, which, if nothing else, embues poetry with a little more life and opens up realms of creativity for prospective poets.

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Review: Matrix Magazine

July 26, 2008

A nice review in the new Matrix Magazine (not available online, so pasted below). We poets may not get a great number of reviews anymore, but what reviews we do get can trail in over two, three or even four years, which can make for nice (or I suppose nasty) surprises. This little one is yet another “nice” for The Rush to Here. What are you waiting for?

The Rush to Here
By George Murray
Nightwood Editions, 2007
Read by Jakub Stachurski

“From a crack in the dark wall hang loose wires: / give a tug and watch society start / to unravel,” writes George Murray in “A Moment’s Autograph,” one of the opening poems of his fourth collection. It is a fitting introduction, as the four sequences of poems offer a kind of unraveling, an examination of the unseen, unaccounted moments of our lives: “The soft applause of snow on the window / has left you with the impression of being / watched.” Though many of the poems are borne of the speaker’s internal condition, they are never elusive or heady, as Murray moors his complex, often unanswered questions in evocative imagery. The three quatrains and closing couplet are recognizable and the form of the sonnet lends cohesion to an astounding range of subject matter, as Murray moves from Greek mythology to urban paranoia to god and the secular world.

Straying from a traditional sonnet’s rhyme schemes, Murray employs thought-rhymes, at times clear synonymic or antonymic pairings, at other times conceptual parallels or contrasts. This format is not apparent at the outset of most poems but slowly builds to create a level of tension within each piece. Conflict is an integral part of the sonnet form and this is perhaps the strongest aspect of the
collection, as Murray’s speakers are often alone, unrequited and unanswered (“you spend an extra night alone with the lust / that keeps you lonely, and nothing new comes / of it, no catastrophic difference”). There are no easy answers, no pseudo-revelations be found here. There is an underlying sense of hope but it is hard-won.

The expansive subject matter and intensity in Murray’s discourse leave the reader in a reflective state, akin to the trance-like state one enters, having covered vast tracts of space, on a road trip. As with any good road trip, one finishes The Rush to Here affected in an inexplicable manner, even shaken, and all the better for it.

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Awards: CAA Poetry Award unofficial “shortlist”

July 17, 2008

I received a lovely letter and citation from DC Reid of British Columbia, who wrote to tell me he’d been one of two judges for the Canadian Authors Association Poetry Award, a prize that doesn’t publish a shortlist (excellent poet Asa Boxer won, so congratulations to him), and that my 2007 book, The Rush to Here, had made it to the top five.

It’s extremely kind and classy of Mr. Reid to write, so I send my thanks and regards. I also note that he’s bang-on about the importance of shortlists, especially in the poetry world in Canada, where chances for recognition are few and far between.

His letter is excerpted below.

…I read your spectacular book, the rush to here, as a juror on the CAA Award for a book of poetry from 2007.

The judging was blind, as in neither I nor the other person knew who the other was, nor had any contact. After battling through 103 books, both of us put your book on our individual top 10 list. Subsequently your book made it to the top five short list. So both of us thought a great deal of your work.

While your book was not the ultimate winner, I wanted to let you know that you made it to the top five. I asked the CAA to publish a shortlist, as that is pretty much just as good, and is important to writers. They declined for 2007.

But I wanted to reach out and let you know because we poets tend to exist in our corners not knowing whether we have connected with anyone out there. It’s a confidence thing for following books; hence my reason for sending this letter….

Well put, I think. And here is his citation, copied in full from his website dcreid.ca

the rush to here – George Murray, Nightwood Editions

At once recognizable as a great book, the rush to here, effortlessly explores the sonnet in all of its permutations and is so neat in its execution, so Shakespearian in its lush authority that it sneaks up on a reader and takes him/her by the throat. There are quotable completely-full-of-themselves epigrams in each and every poem. From Silence is a Dead Language: What you’re looking for is ingenuity / enough to let ambition go: to find / yourself building the simple, the clever, / suddenly satisfied with what’s appearing // at the ends of your much-surprised hands. This is supple, sure, intelligent swelling of incandescence abundance. What impresses is the magic of great poetry captured in one of the western hemisphere’s millennia-long traditional forms, overleaping in one easy – for Murray – step one current retrograde neo-conservative stream in Canadian poetry that holds up structure as the only important consideration in poetry. The rush to here blows that movement completely apart even though it’s not intending to. This guy is so smart so sparklingly clear in his poetic invocations that every line rings as clear as a glass tinged by a fingernail. You want the music to continue and continue in its arpeggio octaves.

So very kind and generous of him to advocate for a shortlist. Maybe CAA will change their minds in the future?