Americanaby Richard Murphy, Rich Murphy
Winner of Prize Americana, Americana: Poems from Rich Murphy is a poetry collection featuring work that is intelligent, critical, incisive, and satirical. His poems examine - with unflinching honesty - not only what it means to be human but also what it means to be an American.
- Press Americana
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- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.23(d)
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As Paul Simon famously declared in song, “We’ve all come to look for America.” The mythic On the Road moment passed (Billy Joel’s Glass Houses, Sting’s Soul Cages,) what mystery now on our “bestial floor”? Baudrillard came and found all simulacrum, a ghost-populated, American machine. Rich Murphy’s Americana offers us a veritable hauntology of these specters of capitalism. Marx’s maxim, “A house uninhabited is not a home,” sums thus our post-industrial crisis: “Expended by nation-building, how may a land’s soul be regained?” Murphy’s poems of “these United States” catalogue the symptoms of our post-historic moment in midst of death throes (or epigenetic crisis). In a post-colonial reading, Hegel’s master-slave dyad – postmodern irony – represents a fetish-perversion, a defense to ward off angst ever threatening to engulf us, extinguishing joie de vivre and converting all spirit into material, this dualism perceived by self as thanatizing, in one word – dehumanization. My very personal wish for this necessary poet’s next volume – if no cure, a treatment plan? As in the best of these, and in the poet’s own words: “the wind praising our hair.” America is still waiting for us. Alex Cigale (poet, editor, translator, bicyclist)
Millions of us flock to Instagram every day to pretty up our worlds. We bathe our selfies in the best possible light, hiding wrinkles and brightening smiles. We crop out the water-stained wallpaper in our living rooms and show off our new couches instead. Rich Murphy's poems in "Americana," however, are the opposite of our social media-friendly pictures. In this collection of older and new work, Murphy deftly focuses on U.S. culture, but he accentuates and then explores its flaws. And he does so beautifully. Murphy--winner of the 2008 Gival Poetry Prize for Voyeur and veteran of such publications as Poetry, Grand Street and Rolling Stone--is a master of compression. He offers complimentary imagery and analysis in compact little forms. Most poems take up less than a page but pack oversized punches. In "Viva Viva," he concludes a study of Las Vegas with this stanza: "The casinos' arms mine the last nickel from the cookie jar brokers and the nightclub dancers while tumbling the amateur acrobats dry. Clothesline daredevils land on their backs in their workweek beds, mulling the disaster of a missing shirt." Consider the elements in play at the end of this piece: tourist-gamblers, dancers and a slot machine move together towards disaster. There is little tapering in "Americana." Murphy often adds to his poems until they must end. This relentlessness is good for poetry, especially since many of us are now imitating Billy Collins, the master of verse that fades towards simple final images and thoughts. Murphy is also wise enough to avoid partisan villains and heroes. In "Cables Home," he hails 20th-century American immigrants as people who "survived hunger, abuse, molestation" and then "went on to graduate from ivy halls." But their grandchildren can only say, "'It's mine, it's mine, it's mine.'" There's no purely conservative or liberal bad guy behind this. All of us are the monster. Long-time Murphy fans will be pleased to read a healthy amount of punchy word-play. This is his signature. Murphy also makes smart references to myth, Whitman and the Beats' obsession with the American highway. But he is shrewd enough to use these references as accents only. Like any good photographer, Murphy knows what needs to stay in his compositions.