In a culture where poetry seems to be heaving its last breaths, those breaths are short, wheezing perhaps: tweet or “jug jug.” Enter enigmas: short poems that make use of irony and compressed language to leave the reader involved in play. During the enigma workshop participants will practice writing short ironic poems with vivid imagery and a sense of playfulness: Twitter, no problem. Enigma workshop participants will be asked to embrace two ideas when writing. The first idea is Emerson’s suggestion that each line should be a poem. The second idea is Eliot’s notion that, “meaning [is] necessary to soothe the reader while the poem does its work.” With those two ideas we will have fun with language.
At the close of the workshop participants will have the opportunity to Tweet their enigmas, share them on Facebook, and pen them on cocktail or coffee shop napkins. Enigmas then could be left in dentists’ offices, on lunch tables, or as small thoughts to consider on commuter trains.
My book-length manuscript titled “Minds of Europe” is a series of poorly scribed palimpsests, a footbridge to the early 20th Century, a séance of sorts to channel poets, and thinkers, a series of reenactments of what Paul Valery called collectively “the mind of Europe:” “Every mind of any scope was a crossroads for all shades of opinion; every thinker was an international exposition of thought. There were the works of the mind in which the wealth of contrasts and contradictory tendencies was like the insane displays of light in the capitals of those days: eyes were fatigued, scorched….” Nietzsche, Freud, and Eliot all had something to say about the idea, enough to make it a core concept to Modernism. There is a three page introduction for this collection if the editor desires it. I have taught courses in modern and contemporary American, British, and French poetry; I am familiar with the work I cover.
The revised manuscript is broken into two chapters. The second chapter begins with Eliot’s remark that “For our society, the improvement of ethics might require the decay of aesthetics.” Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein transcends the manuscript and re-minds the reader. While my manuscript enters into the conversation regarding the above statement by Eliot, a reader may be advised to remember his remark on meaning in poetry when reading mine: “meaning [is] necessary to soothe the reader while the poem does its work.” The collection makes poignant Kevin Jackson’s Constellation of Genius and Stephen Klaidman’s Sydney and Violet.
A Copper Canyon reader remarked on an earlier draft of “Minds of Europe,” “academic in mission, Murphy’s poems insert themselves into the most rigorous tradition of thought.” A second wrote, “I admire the moments of humor/humility in lines such as . . . .” Twenty-five pages from the “Minds of Europe” manuscript were 2011 finalist in the Teacher’s Voice Poetry Chapbook Prize and an earlier version of the book-length manuscript was a finalist in the Santa Fe Writers Project Poetry Awards 2011. A possible introductory essay, “Minds of Europe as Reenactment,” was presented at the International Conference for New Directions in the Humanities in Budapest, June, 2013 and will be published as a Blue Fifth Review Broadside, July 2014. In September 2013, a chapbook collection from the manuscript won finalist at Poetica Magazine: Contemporary Jewish Writing.
Americana my third book of poems was selected as the winner in the Prize Americana 2013 by The Institute for American Studies and Popular Culture, an institute committed to creative writers as creators of culture and recorders of crucial ideas and important cultural moments. My first book, The Apple in the Monkey Tree, was published in 2007 (Codhill Press); my second book Voyeur was published in 2009, winner of the 2008 Gival Press Poetry Prize. Chapbooks include Paideia (Aldrich Press), Family Secret (Finishing Line Press), Hunting and Pecking (Ahadada Books), Phoems for Mobile Vices (BlazeVox), Rescue Lines (Right Hand Pointing) and Great Grandfather (Pudding House Publications).
Richard Carr wrote of my book Voyeur, “The poems are extraordinary as individuals, from the intriguing declarative first sentence of each down to its decisive, glistening last line. And as a collection, like ‘a subtle song [that] travels / from ancient feet through hearts / to first breath in the world,’ Voyeur is spectacular.” Derek Walcott remarked on my poetry, “Mr. Murphy is a very careful craftsman in his work, a patient and testing intelligence, one of those writers who knows precisely what he wants his style to achieve. His poetry is quiet but packed, carefully wrought, not surrealistically wild, and its range not limited but deliberately narrow. It takes aim.”
Rich Murphy: email@example.com