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In Search of Poetry: Richard Murphy

What is the cost of poetry? Or rather, what is the cost to oneself and others of a life of dedication to a lonely art? Which perfection, in the Yeatsian formula, do you choose, the life or the work? The title of Richard Murphy’s new book suggests a reflection on the art of poetry from a master practitioner now approaching his 90th birthday, but the book is much more personal and intimate than that. Part journal, part working diary, part memoir, all from the early 1980s, it charts the initiation and development of the sonnet sequence that would make up The Price of Stone, the poet’s much praised 1985 collection. Each poem in what became a 50 sonnet sequence ventriloquises a building that has a resonance for the poet. This in turn means that the poet becomes the addressee, the biographical subject matter displaced into the consciousness of a roof-tree, restaurant, industrial school or ancestral home. They are free to address and accuse the poet so that the sequence also functions as an oblique self-examination.

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