I’m the Writer in Residence at Open Book Toronto this month. Check there regularly to see what I’m up to. First up: the Questionless Books Interview. I interview a bunch of disparate books people (authors, editors, publishers, publicists, designers, booksellers, readers, bloggers, journalists, nfp types, etc.) about the future of books without ever asking a question. I hope you enjoy what I’m doing there and join and comment on the site.
Archive for the ‘Profile’ Category
I’m headed from Montreal to Ottawa today to read at the WritersFest tomorrow. It’s the end of their fall line-up and what better way to finish than with a passel of poets. The information you’ll need is at the top of this article. See you there!
The Ottawa International Writers Festival presents ‘Poetry Cabaret’ with George Murray, Peter Norman, Sandra Ridley and M.T. Kelly. Oct. 25 at 8:30 p.m. at the Mayfair Theatre. Tickets: $15; $10 students and seniors; Free for Festival members and Carleton students.
The National Post ran a full page in their arts section this weekend on Glimpse and me. There was a brief profile and interview, a nice big picture and a set of exerpts from the book. Very nice! Thanks, National Post.
Each day, thousands of people visit Bookninja to read George Murray’s razor-sharp musings on the publishing world. It is as a poet, however, that he first made his name. The author of four previous books, Murray recently published Glimpse, a collection of 409 aphorisms. Described as “a crystallized poetic essence,” aphorisms, though short, can be as deep as the ocean. To wit: “The only reliable form of time travel is living.” The book even has its own iPhone application, for those who like their philosophy on the go. Mark Medley recently spoke to Murray from his home in St. John’s. Herewith, their conversation, condensed and edited.
Glimpse is a catalogue of 409 aphorisms Murray has culled from his journals and poetry over the years. Why 409? Murray says he shares with the Beach Boys a particular affection for that number. But why aphorisms rather than regular verse?
In a phone interview this week, Murray traced the book’s origins to a reading he did at Princeton a few years back and subsequent conversation with the American poet James Richardson, who has played with the form himself. Richardson told Murray many of the closing couplets from the sonnets of his last collection, The Rush to Here, would work as aphorisms if removed whole from their host poems.
Murray started collecting them, a bid idly, while working on another book of poetry. Then last summer, at a reading in Dublin, the famed Irish poet Paul Durcan insisted he put the poesy aside and publish the aphorisms. That was good enough for Murray.
“Everybody, not just poets, has these little moments of epiphany where you have a bit of a deeper understanding of the universe,” Murray said.
“It’s a fleeting thing, kind of like grabbing onto smoke: You can’t quite do it. But poets are trained to try to grab that and shape it into something. A poet spends a lot of time laying down artifice upon this moment of epiphany and trying to make it beautiful and trying to make it have multiple layers of meaning.
“These aphorisms try to go straight for the moment of epiphany with the fewest words possible.
What is it about the aphorism you are drawn to?
I’m drawn to the essential and crystalline. I’m drawn to their nearness to the moment of epiphany. I’m drawn to their relative lack of artifice (at least as compared to the lyric poem). Some of them can stand alone, while others build on one another. As a book-length entity, they loan and borrow energy, to and from one another. They can be read individually or as a unit. And with most of them, people can walk away with, if not an immediate fix then, something relatively accessible to chew on.
His latest collection, Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms, is thinly disguised as a poetry book. The catalogue of 409 aphorisms come with their own iPhone application, aptly coined iPhorisms. Readers can Tweet, Blog, Facebook or Tumble his succinct thoughts.
“With the aphorism I am trying to get closer to the moment of epiphany by eschewing the artifice of the constructed, crafted poem,” he says. “Now, practically speaking, the aphorisms are also crafted. I’m hoping their accessibility and economy, using the fewest words possible convincingly convey the gist of the epiphany allows the reader closer to the original moment by not putting any barriers to understanding in the way.”
I’ll be on CBC 1’s Weekend Arts Magazine in St. John’s this weekend talking with host Angela Antle about my new book, Glimpse. I’m told the spot runs Sunday at 8:40am Newfoundland time. Pretty early for most of you EST people, so it will be podcast within a few days and I will link to that here. We mostly talk about the stories, such as they are, behind individual aphorisms and about how the book came to be. Hope you enjoy it and it piques your interest in the book.