(ECW, 2015)


McNally Robinson

From The Winnipeg Free Press:

“Murray jostles between rage and comedy… [he] doesn’t simply mimic online chatter. Each line is self-contained, but also scaffolds its poem. Diversion may seem tailor-made for devotees of social media, but it’s actually for people who hate social media.”

From Contemporary Verse:

“Diversion, takes the pithiness of Glimpse, his previous book of aphorisms, and runs it through a bombastic malcontent’s technologically mediated stream of conscience… Often hilarious and never dull, Diversion evokes an experience of disenchantment, ennui, and sarcasm rooted in a culture of endless distraction and disjointedness, grumbled by an embittered speaker who probably wishes this sentence would just f***ing end alre—”

From Atlantic Books Today:

“Diversion is the seventh volume of poetry from the former poet laureate of St. John’s, George Murray. As usual, he’s pushing the envelope: The idea is to reposition poetic inspiration from the tranquil channel of quiet musings to the infusion of multi-media platforms. … Each line of poetry is as separate as an egg around its yolk of terse observation. Taken together they form, not an omelet exactly, but a Newton’s cradle of propelling themes: Sex, games, textual linguistics, the Muppets, outer space exploration, international strife. Each has its own intention and restriction; aphorism, pun, an incomplete thought; and each piece is configured to be more than the sum of its parts.


From The Overcast:

“Lines like “It was Elizabeth Bishop in the library with a candlestick,” “In Xanadu did Newton-John a freaky pleather-dome decree,” and “The Collected Dicks of Emily Poeminson,” could revolutionize introduction to literature courses. Murray is calculated, wry, and dark.”

From Today’s Book of Poetry:

“Reading George Murray’s Diversion makes me feel sorry for almost every other poet out there.  You could build a rock solid poem out of almost every single line in this book.  Most of us are digging rocks, Murray is mining diamonds.

It’s like watching Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier create such beautiful carnage.  These poems aren’t amateur swats, these are professional punches and they will take the wind right out of you.  Make no mistake, George Murray isn’t the least bit interested in taking prisoners.”

(ECW, 2012)

McNally Robinson


From The National Post:

“I think this is Murray’s best book. It’s short, lean and long-gestating, and the poems sport a lightly worn formality that feels organic, never decorative. Some of the poems are a decade old, and so the collection — which ranges geographically from an ash-covered New York on Sept. 11 to a snowed-under present-day St. John’s — feels expertly rehearsed and crash-tested.”

From Georgia Straight:

Whiteout flexes language with the seemingly similar purpose of showing what can’t be seen, but in a darker way. His work offers alternative visions of whiteout conditions, in which it is impossible to see what lies ahead. A former editor of the Bookninja website living in St. John’s, Newfoundland, he is steely and precise. In the poem “The World Goes Out Like an Old Television” he writes: “infinity and zero meet, saving you/from ever noticing a thing. And when/everything finally goes black, you sit/still, waiting in the dark for such a long time.”

The book continually documents the moment when distinctions once considered to be true no longer hold. The reconciliation of a relationship might be possible, but probably not. In “The New Weather” he writes: “Just before the key catches in the lock/a snowflake lands on your eyelash and blurs/the scene; stretching the instant an instant/longer, slurring outer and inner worlds.”

From The Globe & Mail:

In this book, Murray’s celebrated lyric virtuosity is tempered, or rather, deepened, by the kind of knowing humility that makes for great drinking songs. Whiteout speaks in the wry, stunned voice of a man answering time’s wake-up call… Life, for Murray, veers suddenly from careening down a well-worn track to “exposed planes in which you whirl without direction.” One emerges from Murray’s “book of white nothing” as from a strange state of suspension, with a fresh sense of our capacity for new beginnings.

From The Quill & Quire:

“George Murray kicks off his fifth book of poetry with “Dante’s Shepherd,” which revisits Canto XXIV, 1­15 of the Inferno and, in so doing, reveals not only his subject matter but also his formal approach in many of the poems that follow. Like Dante’s master-piece, Whiteout is an exploration of the soul’s journey, and Murray employs terza rima in several poems. The effective use of rhyme testifies to Murray’s mastery of language within strict formal constraints… Such attention to sound combined with content is a pleasure… the diction fits beautifully. Filled with allusion, euphony, and thoughtful content, Whiteout is well worth consideration.”

From Salty Ink:

“As expected, Whiteout offers Murray’s prophet-like insight into humanity alongside calculated diction that leaves no word out of place and no poem one line too long. And if what I’m saying is bordering on  hyperbole, go Google reviews of his work — there’s an uncommon authenticity in peoples’ praise of the poignancy of his work. He has an uncanny knack for metaphorically rich writing that captures all the hidden meaning and truth a fleeting moment can hold — in a way that never feels like poetry so much as a well-worded  moment of revelation any of us could have, if we had his words and patience to craft them. There’s something unique about his poems, and more importantly, something powerful that stirs readers, poem after poem after poem.”

(ECW, 2010)



From Judges’ Citation, EJ Pratt Poetry Prize:

“If, as George Murray tells us, “Complexities unnoticed remain simplicities,” then there is nothing simple about Glimpse. In 409 selected aphorisms, Murray stitches his stolen glances into a broad vista overlooking a constellation of our most inspiring and troubling presences: beauty, death, chaos, form, faith, fate, and chance. To give a sense of this collection’s range would be to quote it entire, but whether wise or wisecracking, Murray’s poetic meditations are consistently inclusive and expansive. In a time of tweets and sound bites, Glimpse widens the chasm that separates simple brevity from prismatic concision and gracefully reminds us of the unbearable swiftness of being.”

From The Quill & Quire:

(**Starred Review**) “Murray is one of the few poets publishing aphorisms in English today, and Glimpse proves he is also one of the best….However wonderful these aphorisms are on their own, Glimpse’s real accomplishment is in its sequencing. The page is its own unit in Glimpse: each group of five aphorisms is subtly interlocked to its page, and each page to the collection as a whole. It’s this sophisticated curation that prevents Glimpse from becoming a kaleidoscope of bon mots or a burlesque of cracking fortune cookies. Instead, we get a glimpse into the soul of a man – eloquent, wry, contradictory, profound.” (Michael Lista)

From The Toronto Star:

Glimpse is an engaging little package of 409 aphorisms. Most are one-liners, and the longest is just over five lines. They can be gobbled up page by page, or dipped into here and there. Grouped five to a page, with sly care in their ordering, they are so freewheeling in tone and topic that it’s equally pleasing to read them out of sequence. Indeed, the format seems to invite browsing. … In Glimpse, Murray may have come up with the ideal poetic form for the age of Twitter. It’s easy to breeze through its bite-sized witticisms in a sitting. And yet, what’s perhaps a bit surprising is that the book continues to yield enjoyment, and a sense of discovery, on rereading.” (Barb Carey)

From Broken Pencil Magazine:

“Four hundred and nine one-liners that send-up the concept of the aphorism, mock the wisdom of poetry and, at the same time, create memorable, eerie, mini-experiences in their …own right. George Murray, Newfoundland-based poet and creator of lit website bookninja.com has given us a compelling, singular work. “Resolve to always be the last one clapping as the applause dies, and someday you’ll also be the first as it begins.” Love it! “The currency of a time without imagination is solution.” Say what?!? “The dog repays the extra long walk by rolling in twice as much shit.” I hear ya brother! Murray is the kind of poet Canada needs way more of: a Kung Fu Buddhist who walks his own pet. Memorize just five of these nuggets of anti-wisdom and you will never, ever, ever be without something to say to the pretty person standing next to you at the party.”

From James Geary:

There is a sort of casual surrealism about Murray’s aphorisms, as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world to compare worry, for example, to a playground. The metaphors are both pedestrian and astonishing, reminiscent of aphorists like Malcom de Chazal and Ramon Gomez de la Serna. The deep strangeness of the images and juxtapositions takes a while to sink in, mostly because of Murray’s deadpan delivery. Reading his aphorisms is like talking on a phone with a slight delay; you understand what’s been said a beat or so after it has been spoken. And that split-second delay, filled with thoughts and speculation, is where the wonder lies, of aphorisms in general and these aphorisms in particular. The charm of Glimpse is that so many of the aphorisms in it make you do a double take.

From Andrew Dale of The Once:

“It’s the sort of book you want to keep on your night stand, or on your coffee table or in that certain room where you have some of your most profound revelations. At any rate, it’s the type of book you can reference again and again, when you need some perspective on life or just need a reason to smile at it. Am I saying you should go pick up a copy? Of course I am.”

From Paul Durcan, author Cries of an Irish Caveman:

“Where are we? Where Wilde and Socrates and Thoreau and Groucho Marx, toddlers all, sit together on the floor and mix toes and fingers. High-rise axioms. Murray is as philosophically as he is humorously exact: what more can one ask of a ‘glimpse’? Skimming his stones across the pond, plumbing the depths, he is laconic, wristy, apocalyptic. ‘Solipsists should mind their own business.’”

From James Richardson, author Vectors:

“George Murray masters the whole range of aphorism, from whimsy to wisecrack, proverb to pensée. He doesn’t preach or teach. He sneaks up on truths from unexpected directions, surprising them as they become true. I’ve got dozens of collections of aphorisms on my shelves. This one I’ll keep right on the desk.”

From Christian Bök, author of Eunoia:

“Every aphorism calls out to us, like the last line from some beautiful, but imaginary, poem.”

The Rush to Here
(Nightwood Editions, 2007)

The Rush to Here


from The Globe and Mail

The Rush to Here is a rush to everywhere. … Murray employs something he calls “thought-rhymes,” which appear to be parallels or conceptual variations that take the place of conventional rhyming. Indeed, many of his line endings are inventive, hinting at notions that can never be realized, while also mirroring the everyday wanderings of our daydreams. … Reading Murray engenders thoughts subtly mystical, feelings revolving around the wonder of imperfection. …the language of these poems is aggressive, even hostile, meant to engage the reader in debate and discourse. Traditional sonnets these are not, … [the] poems in The Rush to Here are striking, inspired and sturdy.”

from Canadian Literature

George Murray’s the rush to here features a photo on a helicopter pad (X marks the spot) done as a sequence of six (a sextych?)—the gaps reflected in the design of the section breaks, each marked by the same set of six small rectangles, in the shape of the images, but now rendered blank. It is as if the picture puzzle pieces have become interstices. The design is excellent. A very pleasant book to have and to hold. The poems have such a maturity of vision, many on the passing of time, that it’s startling to note the author is still in his thirties. Some of the poems are allusive, with mention of astronomers, philosophers, literary theorists, muses, but well contextualized and engaging. “A Moment’s Autograph” won the Gertrude Stein Award for Innovation in Poetry. The loose sonnet form allows much. Children, God, Loss, Memories are evoked through sneakily thought provoking questions and insights, as well as arresting final couplets. (02.10.10)

from The Independent

“In reading Murray’s sonnets, the question to ask yourself is this: Is his innovation on rhyme a useful system for developing language as a memorable and insightful fashion, or does it amount to sleight-of-hand that only ever mimics magic? I would suggest he has hit on a means of expression that works well to coax out his weighty, witty meditations. It is another kind of spanner for the poet’s toolkit. The “thought rhyme” is a fascinating concept, and one that provides limitless potential for poetic investigation. These are poems well worth reading.”

from The Winnipeg Free Press

“[Murray] writes strikingly, usually structuring the pieces around linked metaphors. Often these links move into an achingly expressive line, like Push, whose second-last stanza ends “Lie here with me a bit and say the past exists.” Murray has a powerful ability to synthesize disparate ideas within a poem. A Silent Film, for example, moves from ancient triremes to silent films to contemporary storms and television. What might be messy in an open form is brilliantly contained in the traditional shape of the sonnet”

from The Vancouver Province

The Rush to Here is the fourth book of poetry by Murray, one of Canada’s best young poets. It’s also his most mature. Murray uses the “thought-rhyme,” a variation on the sonnet, to sift through the detritus of the world in search of moments that provide, if not insight, then at least understanding of our lives — or maybe just life.

from Prairie Fire Review of Books

The writing never lets me down. It is continually smart and revealing, almost conversant and colloquial, but pulling back with the shine of poetry. The overall tone sounds world aware and observant rather than world weary. … Murray doesn’t cheapen experience. He examines it from any number of perspectives, and yet sets nothing in stone.

The sidetracks within the poems are a modus operandi. What’s likely to be said is skirted in favour of a tangent or dipsy doodle. In motion-picture parlance, these are jump cuts that command attention, and a slowing down. A simple phrase like “Your turn is today” (70) means life is short, but, in the grand scheme of things, that your turn is the equivalent of one short day. I’m stopped. I recognize this poignancy in the face of the ongoing diurnal events. “Mostly the world waits / / patiently. Mostly people get on / with things. / Mostly they are unaware / of waiting.” Enjoy the art! Oh yes, this is one wonderful book.

from Matrix Magazine

“…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.”

from The Dominion

“This new collection of poems from George Murray contains something truly new; he has written a series of sonnets using an entirely novel kind of rhyme. It sounds unlikely, but the results more than justify the flouting of convention. … While some writers might be tempted to let the innovation carry the collection, hoping for an audience enamoured of formal poetry, Murray takes the time to craft each poem into something thought-provoking and beautiful, so that a reader unfamiliar with sonnets might still be enthralled. …. The Rush to Here is worth rushing out for.”

from Eye Magazine

“Murray’s poems reflect his growing maturity and his interest in approaching writing as a profession and a craft. The Rush to Here — his fourth collection — features meditations on modern life rendered carefully in sonnet form, where echoes of Murray’s past as a teenage stoner with a Mohawk emerge beneath the voice of the contemplative adult in lines like, ‘The crushed grass evidence of collusion: / the animals fuck themselves to bleeding.'”

from ARC Magazine

“There is no moralizing in this book, and no psychologizing, no exploration of the ‘I.’ In fact, Murray’s use of pronouns is fascinating on this account. His “you”-the most frequent of the pronouns-could refer in the same poem to himself, depersonalizing the “I”, or it could refer to you, the reader, or in a generalized form of address, as “one”, it could refer to anyone, to all of us, and it is in this last mode that you end up reading all his pronouns. The sense of each phrase slips through the boundaries set up between us-me, you, they-by the familiar pronouns and goes as far as blurring the distinctions between figures, between child and adult, vandal and master. We are unbounded and aggregated; rather than contained willful individuals, we appear as a bunch of atoms in vague Brownian motion in some distant outpost of the universe. …he gives us his strength, his endless process of working out “the how-not-why of these perfect heartbeats”, his poetry of inquiry. … There is a unique mind at work here…”

The Hunter
(McClelland & Stewart, 2003)


from The Globe and Mail

“A spooky portrait … with a compelling tone and constellation of imagery – less a moral tale of Armageddon and more its soundtrack. Murray takes great risks with statement and image. …the collection is quite powerful, inventing an original way of seeing a world which seems to enjoy using its own tools against itself. The Hunter remakes the world with a frightening and evocative music.”

from The Toronto Star

“There’s … a life-and-death urgency here, but at a remove, as if Murray wanted to widen his scope from the close-up view of an individual to a panoramic perspective on humanity and the sweep of history. The Hunter is an ambitious, visionary collection with many haunting images. It’s chilling indeed…”

from The Quill and Quire

“Like Milton in Paradise Lost and many poets of the Western canon, Murray’s moralistic poems yearn for a golden age where man was part of the natural world… Beauty is what makes The Hunter such a compelling read. At this watershed moment in history, we are all looking for the beauty that lies somewhere between the ugliness of history and the ominous tone of prophesy.”

from Books in Canada

“For style, I think of John Ashbery’s prolix juxtapositions of estranging details, though I like Murray’s poems better (more definition, more purposeful clout, more definition between the poems). Murray has [Mark] Strand’s surreal clairvoyance, his cheeky wit. Murray works his magic by accumulation… by analogy with musical forms, whose effects are cumulative. Murray’s corrective influence invokes a hurried urgency, a nutty scrambling for an imaginative response that will jolt us awake, blow the lid off our complacency.”

from The Ottawa Citizen

“[The Hunter] draws a new language from the chaos and uncertainty of our time. … Imbued with an eerie, prophetic spirit. [It’s] as if Murray sensed the coming storm.”

from MobyLives.com

“… experience haunts these pages, but so, too, does a sense of continuance, of a relentless quest for grace, in poems that combine an admirable grittiness with enviable elegance.”

The Cottage Builder’s Letter
(McClelland & Stewart, 2001)


from The National Post

“He has the poet’s instincts, the knack for turning a good phrase and the verbal grit and suppleness to keep the reader engaged. …an important talent.”

from CBC Newsworld’s (TV) On the Arts

“… haunting poems about people set off in some way against their environment… I really think that he has talent and he’ll do more.”

from Books in Canada

“There is a fine balance in Murray that makes his poems deeply persuasive. There is an atmosphere wherein past and present, the before and after of events, mingle to create the timeless history of a place.”

from The Globe and Mail

“These poems are well-crafted and observant…”

Carousel: A Book of Second Thoughts
(Exile Editions, 2000)


from The Globe and Mail

“Framed by a central metaphor (and often suitable for framing), the poems work Calvino-like variations on the theme of mortality. [Murray] demonstrates that a firm controlling metaphor in a poem need not obviate the free play of imagination. … This is a highly impressive first book.”

from Eye Weekly

“…unusually sharp line-to-line – with image rhyme, pun, ironic wordplay and a comedian’s sense of timing …borderline brilliant.”

from The Danforth Review

“…a wide range of tones and perspectives: poignant, comic, tragic, sardonic, and erotic. …one can only say that Murray has triumphed in his metaphor.”


One comment

  1. […] a book cover below to read more about that book. (Or visit his website for more […]

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