Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

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Review: Whiteout in the Georgia Straight

July 13, 2012

Vancouver’s hip alt paper reviews Whiteout. It’s nice to be reviewed with so different a writer (from me) as Markotic and find that both styles can be appreciated for what they are.

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.”

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Review: Globe and Mail

May 5, 2012

Whiteout gets a nice review in Canada’s paper of record, the Globe and Mail. It’s nice to see the book doing well on its own terms! A taste:

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.

 

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Review: First Review for Whiteout in Quill and Quire

March 23, 2012

The first review for Whiteout is a good one. Whew. It appears in the April edition of the Quill and Quire, Canada’s book industry magazine, on stands now. Text below:

Whiteout

George Murray; $18.95 paper
978-1-77041-087-9, 64 pp., 51/2 x 81/2,
ECW Press, April
Reviewed from bound galleys

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.

The simplicity of “Dante’s Shepherd” belies its depth. A person walks with one hand exposed to the cold, and the sun finally comes out: “It leans down on the hills as though scorning / any doubt that the universe still lives / without my happiness in bloom, warning”. The common activity of walking while being assaulted by the elements points to one of the volume’s pervading themes: the destabilizing effect of being alive.

There’s also death. The eight tercets of “Brushfires,” another poem in terza rima, describe the aftermath of a fire and what is found in the rubble: a couple burned into one indistinguishable mess. “Falling or burning, embraced against the end; / what-was-once-two closes in, supplicates, smoulders down to one corpse, crumbles, ascends.” Several poems deal with accidents, emergencies, or death, and the overall outlook is solemn.

The shorter poems work best, with the ones that make use of rhyme being particularly effective. Fortunately Murray doesn’t force this approach, allowing half-rhymes to stand (or even forgoing them altogether) in the interest of communication. In “Innocent Bystanders,” for example, the speaker and his or her dinner companion listen in on another couple’s argument. Murray switches up the rhyme scheme partway through as the speaker and companion try to focus on each other. Such attention to sound combined with content is a pleasure.

On occasion, Murray’s language is unnecessarily raw, demanding too much attention and detracting from the overall effect. But in most cases, the diction fits beautifully. Filled with allusion, euphony, and thoughtful content, Whiteout is well worth consideration.

Candace Fertile, an English teacher at Camosun College, Victoria.

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Event: Canada Reads Poetry

April 15, 2011

I’m participating as a panelist in the Canada Reads Poetry project hosted online by the National Post and CBC Books. The project was generated in response to last summer’s 10th annual Canada Reads tournament, which very purposefully excluded poetry from the running. This contest runs a little differently, with each of the panelists offering an initial essay in defence of a book of poems, followed by an live chat online in which the panelists will take questions from moderators and the public. Then a public vote will decide “which poetry book Canada should read” together. Mostly this gives me a chance to highlight a book I think deserved a wider audience when it came out.

The panelists and books are:

Great list of books, any of which would be an interesting exercise in communal reading. At this point there are still two essays to come, and then the live chat is next Thursday at 2pm EST. Should be interesting to see how it goes!

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Review: Aphorism expert James Geary

January 21, 2011

Aphorism expert James Geary seems to really like (and have gotten the tone of) my book of aphorisms, Glimpse! It’s a great vindication for a previously unknown aphorist like me. He offers a brief opinion and set of examples at the first link above. After more than a few good reviews now, I am very happy. I also really enjoy seeing which aphorisms people choose as their highlights from the collection. It’s amazing how few repeat!

George Murray is editor of the literary website Bookninja.com and author of Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms. 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.

 

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News: Best of Year List

January 3, 2011

Atlantic books impressario Chad Pelley (Salty Ink) has been a great booster for Glimpse, and he does so again, adding Glimpse to a “best of 2010” list in the Telegram.

“Glimpse,” by poet George Murray; a collection of 409 aphorisms. “It’s not often someone writes a book of poetry this accessible and enjoyable to people who don’t like poetry,” Pelley said. “You can respect it as a form of poetry, or you could see it as a gag book that you have on your coffee table. A lot of (the aphorisms) are really funny, and a lot are really insightful. I think it’s a good gateway for a lot of people into poetry.”

And speaking of gateways, I signed and/or heard-tell-of a record number of copies being bought for usually-non-poetry readers. The radio and paper coverage seem to have done their jobs and piqued the interest of prose readers. Nice!

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Holiday Recommendations: Glimpse

December 8, 2010

Glimpse has appeared on several prominent end-of-year recommendation lists.

Thanks to the poets and bloggers involved for their kind words and recommendations!

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News: How Pedestrian

November 16, 2010

My Google news feeds picked up my name on a website called “How Pedestrian“, where they get people on the street to read poetry for short video spots. It’s a lovely idea and very well executed. All this week they’re featuring poems from my third book, The Hunter. It’s very flattering that (apparently) average people would take the risk of reading these difficult poems for a camera. That or it speaks highly of the persuasion skills of the site’s proprietors. Either way, I’m glad to be part of it all. The first two are up (the first video below), and it looks as though there’s more to come.

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Review: Broken Pencil

November 8, 2010

Broken Pencil also loves Glimpse!

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.

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Review: Quill and Quire

November 8, 2010

The Quill & Quire loves Glimpse! What a great review by Michael Lista. Time to get your copy now! Order from your local or from Amazon.ca and .com here. Makes a great Christmas gift for someone you’re trying to introduce to poetry.

George Murray’s fourth book of poetry is a selection of 409 aphorisms – those sometimes philosophic, sometimes sophomoric distillations of thought invented by Hippocrates and perfected by Yogi Berra. 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.