Critical essays on Richard Murphy: A poet’s lifelong quest for identity

Book review: Collection is meticulously and carefully edited by Benjamin Keatinge

Poet Richard Murphy:  His quest for calm security was fuelled by a mixture of nostalgia and anticipation. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Poet Richard Murphy: His quest for calm security was fuelled by a mixture of nostalgia and anticipation. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

It is refreshing to meet a collection of critical essays that not only eschews jargon but also engages the reader in the connection between the life and the work. One might at first glance regret the absence of an explicit chronology of Richard Murphy, but the essayists so effectively draw the reader into the trajectory of his life that man and poet become an uneasy whole.

In this respect, the contributions by Maurice Harmon (doyen of Murphy studies), Philip Keel Geheber, Eve Cobain, James B Kelley and Barbara Brown are particularly valuable. Lucy Collins, on “Richard Murphy’s Island Lives”, Tom Walker on Murphy as a “radio poet”, Elena Cotta Ramusino on his autobiography The Kick, and Mark Wormald’s account of Murphy’s friendship with Ted Hughes, are exemplary studies. The meticulous bibliography, by editor Benjamin Keatinge, leaves everyone in his debt.

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