Review written by Julie Mellor – appeared in Presence issue # 74 (November 2022).
Young in the Night Grass contains thirty poems, ten of which are
haiku. Some of the poems are distinctly avant-garde, using
surrealist cut up techniques, for example, ‘Barricades of Pain’.
The poem moves from ‘Hellenic delight’ and ‘anarchist passion’
to what, in the end, could be termed erasure (rather than
closure): ‘What has been written/ has burned and died’.
Writing, and the writing process, is examined further in ‘Huddle’.
Catching sight of an idea, ‘The prospector in you twitches’. Life
continues with ‘the soft comfort/ of easy rain’, until
miraculously, ‘Under a waning moon, reviving:/ page seeds’. Like
Ted Hughes’ ‘The Thought Fox’, (super) natural forces are at
work to produce the poem.
Murphy was born in Cork and now lives in Madrid. ‘Minotaur in
Green’ opens with ‘offer your blade to the day/ sententious
Ireland’. Linking Ireland with the mythical half man/half bull
allows Murphy to examine the inconsistencies that make up
place and character: ‘laughs as rich as gravy’ yet ‘the body
abused like a bus seat’.
Haiku, of course, are traditionally less subjective than this. Here,
they are paired on facing pages, providing breathing space
between some of the denser, more experimental poems. Music is
a recurring theme, such as in this monoku:
autumn rain listening again to the Goldberg Variations
and below, where the use of assonance echoes the dog’s howl:
the busker’s dog
‘In a Recurring Dream’ is a good example of where the longer
poem and the haiku work well together. The poem recounts a
dream train journey where the speaker is shown a picture of a
dying centaur: ‘an image/ of a dead dream screaming/ in the
face of life’. On the following page we have this:
the black cat stops
in its tracks
As with haibun, the haiku expands the preceding text. Murphy
isn’t the first writer to mix haiku with other poetic forms, but I
found this aspect of the collection particularly satisfying and
hope others will too.