Tuesday, 18 September 2012
I have just returned from northern Italy to find a review of my poetry collection Acapulco: New and Selected Poems (Melos) by Martina Evans on Writer's Hub and another by John Greening which I hope the TLS won't mind my reproducing here:-
"There is often a single poem early in a collection that helps the reader find their way. In Acapulco by Nicholas Murray, it is "Bedroom", about a painting by Vilhelm Hammershoi: "How you anticipate / our love of the minimal ...", it begins, concluding a few lines later: Your silence grows in us, expands like rising dough, until we reach the street and find ourselves, altered, in an exalted elsewhere. That heavy cadence is characteristic, as is the sound-shift from "altered" to "exalted". In Murray's strongest work the effect is exactly as described in "Bedroom". The silence can be that of "Honfleur" - "amongst smiling gourmands /who do not know our secret"; the more spiritual regions of "Icon", the opening poem; or raw and malevolent - most vividly in a piece about an owl ("That cold, accusing look!") accidentally smoked from its nest. "Owl" is Murray at full stretch. "Get Real!", his extended satire on the Coalition (as the biographer of Andrew Marvell, he can be forgiven for trying) is less successful than pieces where the mockery is reined in: his snaps of Liverpool ("Culture Capital" - Murray has also written a Life of Matthew Arnold), for example, or the gentle pokes at archaeology, photographers, cyclists ("chasing pleasure, with the grimness it deserves") and even writers in "Himself a Poet": Oh yes, we all know the truthfulness of blurbs: like the grocer's insistence that his gnarled loaf with its scatter of grains, signalling wholesomeness, was not drawn, craftily, from the freezer at dawn. Shakier in descriptive work such as "First Day of Summer", where "cooing pigeons" reappear from two pages earlier, Murray is at his best when least adjectival, when a poem feels like a "tossed titbit", one of those "buoyant scraps" fed to appease those same "pigeons in the square". He frequently emphasizes the importance of selection, knowing what and when to exclude - the minimalist title poem, for instance, is rounded off (again somewhat over-emphatically) with the idea of a "viewfinder getting in the way of the view", but also more sinisterly in "Der Führer", where Hitler "ordered that the blinds be drawn" when his train was passing bombed cities."
From the Times Literary Supplement, 14 September 2012