Featured Poet: Richard Murphy

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RICHARD MURPHY

The Thinking Hunter Syzygyan


Interviewed by
EMENIANO SOMOZA
Editor-At-Large
The Syzygy Poetry Journal


Let me be the first to officially welcome you to The Syzygy Poetry Journal, Richard… 

Please refer to me as Rich and not Richard. I chose the name purposely. When I started writing I noticed that there was a poet a bit older than I from Ireland, and I didn’t want to be confused with him though I have been on occasion. We each work hard at poetry and each deserves whatever results from that work.

Reviews paint a picture of you as a ‘hunter’ poet –skillful and stealthy…

Early on, I was determined to write poetry that at least had the appearance of being direct, so I was very conscious of the metaphors I used and avoided the verb “to be.” I think that the behavior gave me the image of a hunter or someone taking aim. Actually, I have always seen myself as a thief.

I am always listening and reading for images, metaphors that I can work with, especially if one can be worked into a project I am working on or twisted into irony. Often times the language I steal comes ready-made. The first line in “Seizure…”is stolen from some article that I was reading.

Regarding these poetic ‘targets’…

My ‘targets’ are large, barn doors. They become projects that take considerable time to complete. Most recently those targets are around social justice (inequality, corporate-state wars, etc); unconsciousness / consciousness and the creative process; and modernism and postmodernism battling it out during the first half of the 20th century (and how that played out on a literal battlefield).

How do you choose a ‘target’? What are your mental preparations?

My writing preparation is ongoing. I am usually aware of where a manuscript needs further development and keep an eye out, my ears open, my imagination ready. The day becomes one of listening, reading, imagining. I have the poem that I am working on stuck to the dashboard when commuting. My notebook catches any language that seems interesting during the day.

Almost, everything I do has a focus in poetry or can be used for poetry: From waking in the morning frustrated with existential aloneness and the need to reach out to others, to encouraging sleep before bed with “little victories” (a poem started or completed or accepted for publication), to waking after four hours of sleep and working semi-consciously on a poem or a problem in a poem before catching another hour or two of sleep. The routine involved in the above description is praxis though not one that is voluntary anymore.
Reading student’s, former students’, and known poets’ poetry takes place in the quieter moments of the day.

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Again, how do you find the interior clearing or mental hunting ground especially in an urban setting?

Many of my poems begin the hour or two of semi-consciousness that I mentioned above. The quiet freedom allows the play of my conscious and unconscious mind to assist me in my writing. At first, I would keep a pencil and notebook by the bed, but after learning what was important in my life, I remembered without a prompt what I was working out and how I did so.


“The language of possibility will not be found in the cliché language of ideology. A poet seeks the future language in order to expose alternative roads, new paths, ones “needing wear” (as Frost would never put it) for anyone interested in moving from the very destructive parade ground we are on, or at least to possible paths for despairing individuals struggling to create their lives, their art.”


In your introduction, you stressed the need for poets to move towards the margins if they want to arrive at fresh ideations and limnings of truths.

I have always felt that my life was nothing special to write about. Lowell’s line “I am tired, everyone’s tired of my turmoil” added to my caution. However, the struggle to avoid living a cliché life was also important to me; it became a daily concern. That cliché life is one embedded in the distractions, propaganda, and suffering of ill health that the social authority that is made up of PR firms, government agencies, and marketing campaigns embed its citizens. The social authority calls people guided by their ad campaigns “pop culture,” as if it were a positive thing.

Many people have been deluded into giving their life on the planet and their money to profiteers (who always steal from the poor). Those people who may have no idea that they are being deluded nor that they despair and those who have given up the struggle for freedom of thought make up the social authority’s pop culture. I consider pop culture the place of mainstream ideology, where social authority (the corporate state), want their discourse to take place so that everyone has the same address, if you will. There, they control folks via language and images. When I mention moving to the margin, I mean moving from these currents.

Within that framework, I find only cliché and platitude. Little insight is produced using that language, nor can new perspective be offered. Original thought is nearly impossible. For me, it is at best the language of what Yeats called “the birds in the trees, the dying generations.” Pop music that young people seduce each other with and later in life call the golden oldies. But every generation has the same song during the exploitation.

I think Rorty has a point when he advises those interested in the future language: one must use one’s “final vocabulary” always and look toward possibility at the edges of culture, the edges of the symbolic order. The language of possibility will not be found in the cliché language of ideology. A poet seeks the future language in order to expose alternative roads, new paths, ones “needing wear” (as Frost would never put it) for anyone interested in moving from the very destructive parade ground we are on, or at least to possible paths for despairing individuals struggling to create their lives, their art. It doesn’t mean that the poet will succeed in imagining that future language. However, s/he may come up with what Deleuze calls new weapons for defending one’s space for thinking, for creating. Complete failure is worth the effort, worth a meaningful life.

I tell students that artists straddle the symbolic order or at least the mainstream ideology with its many pathologies so that they bring to it alternative images, fresh perspectives. We as a culture might move in a different, less destructive direction.

Your postmodernist style does bear strong connections with Hopkins. In ‘Seizure: 100 BC – 2015 AD‘, which sounds like a treatise on modern man’s political/philosophical follies and more recently the galumphing failures that blight our modern society, do you think poets would make better rulers? 

I was hoping to expose the emperor naked, dressed in the thin air language that emperors have always worn. It was meant to be a shining of light on the way empires use language to corrupt with the idea that shining light on corrupt power helps to dispel it.

I don’t see poets making better political rulers. Pound certainly took care of that idea. However, Rimbaud, Whitman, and the rest revealed how poets mark the culture.

What is relevant in Hopkins is secular instress and inscape. When both are used as ironic perspective, often narrative drops away and new areas of awareness or understanding open. The new areas of awareness / understanding is what we need for new paths, new language for people wanting to control their use of language and their lives.

What is your view of the language of poetry? If anything, how different is man’s daily language – eg. texting language – from the paradigm of poetic language?

Any language can be the language of poetry. However, there is always the cliché or platitude and the balance of the serious and authentic. The latter are difficult achievements.


“I want not just emotion with my poems; I want thinking also. I want the experience of being alive in the moment of the poem when the reader experiences the “now” in the creative act that s/he is involved in as a reader.”


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So how do you describe or define the linguistic trajectory of the everyday poet? Is there a chance for the everyday poet to achieve the perfect poetic language? Or should man seek to achieve that state of linguistic perfection?

The everyday poet is a wonder and a achievement that brings solace to many who know little of poetry. Kierkegaard has it about right, “And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.” There is nothing wrong with this poet. However, if the poet is interested in achieving more, growing as a person and a poet, resting is not possible. There is always something that needs learning to defend free thought and then to apply the learning to the art and craft. The learning is individual and more and more idiosyncratic. However, this is what makes both sincerity and authenticity. Nothing else does. 

What sort of poetry were you writing when you began? Have your experiences changed your style/voice or, target?

Starting out in my early teens, I couldn’t help being influenced by Robert Lowell and John Berryman. However, again, I saw my life as cliché and needed to push away from confessional poetry and find what I considered the struggle toward the edges of main stream ideology and the symbolic order. This move took me to consider the widest variety of poets.

Only lately have I woken to how much Hopkins influenced me and so many modern poets, those on the cusp of postmodernism, and those perhaps hoping to discover the postmodern in their work: Pound (even if he didn’t want to admit it), Levertov and Duncan, Wright and Bly, and Ashbery and Vogelsang.

Sorry for lack of better word but, somehow, you come across as one of those who has an aversion to the mainstream pop culture and those artists who defend it with sorry excuses for the plight…

Seeking to avoid mainstream ideology may also mean avoiding the language or language patterns that are used as crutches by social authority when presenting the public with the language patterns of mainstream ideology. Avoiding certain language patterns is also true with Avant-garde and earlier poets: Some poets are worth further exploration to find what they produce. My aversion to some uses of language is an attempt to avoid the use of crutches, to consider in a new light Eliot’s point in his essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent.”   

I feel you, as many of us do. So what or who do you mainly syzygyze for? Have you any works in progress? Where can readers and followers find you?

For me, syzygy is in my irony, juxtaposition of words, my alliteration, and even in metaphor if I can make it happen with effect. I do enjoy creating dissonance with language, especially with words that appear to be working together at first glance. I want not just emotion with my poems; I want thinking also. I want the experience of being alive in the moment of the poem when the reader experiences the “now” in the creative act that s/he is involved in as a reader.

I am hoping to finish soon the three projects that I have mentioned, so that I can move on to others. I think I feel a need to change, a need to grow once again, and it may be a project that perhaps uses science and the humanities in some way.


“The best a poet can do is to attempt to eclipse the cultural ideology with new perspective and perhaps a new language and thus mimic the event that beautiful night. In doing so without the blood moon apocalyptic ideas of the past, the poet might perform something as simple (simple?) as Hopkins did, invent a new poetry, a new poetics that reflects the light of the sun today and tomorrow.”


Sadly, it seems there aren’t many readers of poetry though there seems to be many writers of poetry. Many of my poems can be found on the web should anyone Google, “Rich Murphy poet.” They also may be found in books and chapbooks I have written, for instance: The Apple in the Monkey Tree, Voyeur, and Americana.

I also have blogs on the following links and facilitate workshops at Eckleburg Workshops, and the address is http://eckleburgworkshops.com/.

Also, my Workshop Website can be found at http://www.richinkworkshop.com/.

Lastly, my LinkedIn Profile is at https://www.linkedin.com/in/richink .

Finally, and this is not to mean being simplistic and superstitious about the whole phenomenon but, you come at the exact Syzygy moment – Sun, Moon, Earth aligning to create the cosmic spectacle called ‘blood supermoon’ – how do you explain the beautiful strangeness of this coincidence?

How does a poet syzygyze a total eclipse of the moon on the night of September 27-28, 2015, a supermoon, a harvest moon, a blood moon of old? The best a poet can do is to attempt to eclipse the cultural ideology with new perspective and perhaps a new language and thus mimic the event that beautiful night. In doing so without the blood moon apocalyptic ideas of the past, the poet might perform something as simple (simple?) as Hopkins did, invent a new poetry, a new poetics that reflects the light of the sun today and tomorrow.

Thank you so very much for this wonderful conversation, Rich. The Syzygy Poetry Journal is so honored to have you…

I feel honored to have been asked by you and to have the opportunity to share my poems and my thoughts in Syzygy.

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5 thoughts on “Featured Poet: Richard Murphy

  1. Rich is one of the kindest blessed treasure for poetry. I hope one day i can serve poetry like u did n still doing. Going through this interview his words and the names of the poets and things discussed in here make me to write those names and search for to read them and learn from too.. Many Thanks Rich!

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