Friday, May 10, 2019

Between the Desert and Ohio: Patricia Murphy's Bully Love

Patricia Murphy is the editor of Superstition Review, which in 2011 published one of my short stories.  As well as being a talented and nurturing editor, she is also an accomplished poet.  So it is a great honor to review her collection of poems, Bully Love.

The poems center on the theme of life in the desert west, more or less in the present time, and the Ohio of the poet’s past.  At times, there is an interplay of a western poem, followed by an Ohio poem, for many pages.  Although this form is not continued throughout, a thematic pattern is established.  Murphy’s poetic voice examines the present against the past, looking for patterns, ruptures, and discontinuities. There are plenty to be found.

The desert west is, for the most part, the poet’s place of solace and rest.  In one poem we read “The neighbor’s poppies/have turned dusty… This evening we inhale/the dry skin of the desert,/bed down in the belly of the cloud.” 

In this place, the desert is both shelter, mood, and yardstick of what life can bring us.  In “No Coats in October” the poet’s “Aunt’s inquire about/the Sonaran lure” while the poet remembers her father taking her mother to her fourth asylum “like remembering/hayrides on autumn/evenings. Cornfields./ Switchgrass. Cows in Mud.   

The desert nurtures, but memory of other climates haunt the collection.  The voice of these poems finds stability out west, but is also irresistibly drawn to a colder, seasonal past.  This cycle of poems mirrors the cycles of seasons, of life, and of the human experience – with great success.  It demonstrates our constant negotiation between the lives we were born into, and those we choose to create. 

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