NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
SHEILA E. MURPHY: THE STUTTERING OF WINGS
Stride
4b Tremayne Close
Devoran
Cornwall
TR3 6QE
UK ISBN 1 900152 75 4
9.95 [$15]

SHEILA E. MURPHY: PROOF OF SILOUETTES
Stride
ISBN 1 900152 93 2
8.50

Visit the website of Stride
read a review of a book by Douglas Barbour & Sheila E Murphy
read a poem by Sheila E. Murphy on Pickings
read a poem by the author on The Aabye's Baby Archive

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SHEILA E. MURPHY: THE STUTTERING OF WINGS

Sheila E. Murphy specialises in what has been termed American haibun. Traditionally haibun is prose that includes one or more haiku, the prose have the same observational, uncritical stance of haiku. Murphy's haibun are more innovative and set in modern, yet surreal frames. An example is NARRATION

The freshest faced oblique new reverie went south. She took a pill, earth took to crumbling. Nearby parents felt the invocation of her promised empathy. Perhaps once favorite fractions would be realized before the fragrance dawned. All language moves like a gazelle. As trembling hastens our devised consent, the raptures of a white sky drape those fears to which we frequently succumb. At the school called 'La Lumiere', the boy wore dark blue. She watched the freshness leave him. Leave her frequently alone.
	Antiquity, a frame for it, new thoughts of recommended flowers.
Not all the work here is haibun but throughout the book, the emphasis is on language.
	Insistence Comes Before Upon

	From what key are you derived? the close pain reading of a
	sudden text means adoration's shaping to be brothy as these flower
	patches in a plexed room arching at the top where mist light...
	feeds on shore lacquered a sunshine gray because the tense
	ignition motions us to backstroke home. Insistence comes before
	upon in most societies I understand.
Sometimes, these poems go on and on. This is not a book to be read in large chunks. Read two or three pieces, and then save some more for later.

A poem I find particularly powerful is INTENTION

	There was a hall, Immaculata, where girls lived.
	The college had a name for quiet,
	But the ones living in rows would swallow gold
	and be connivy-prone without leaving their rooms.

	...

	...
	And on our faces were expressions of apprentice
	Late and same and on the rebound possibly
	From one too many romance
	Handled quietly with hurt staining the evermore.
I shall dip into this book time and again.

reviewer: Ku.
SHEILA E. MURPHY: PROOF OF SILOUETTES

This is a nicely presented book, small and square, full of mainly prose poems, a few short, spare poems. It is the opposite of readable and I have yet to be convinced that having read it, I have gained anything that I would not have got from reading some Gertrude Stein or e.e.cummings, both of which are influences.

The title of the collection intrigues, PROOF OF SILHOUETTES. I think it is a misleading title since it suggests that behind the obfuscation of language, which is blatant and intentional, lies something solid and substantial. But sentence after sentence completely evades even a hint of meaning from AGGRAVATED ASHPHALT:

Time and against the granular induction chevrons placed their amber laves where chipped rock seemed intact.
from AFFECTION FOR THE FRACTION:
Myth left velvet shapely ... If a camera would take in the picture, it might let go and carry forward by virtue of projection.
from OCTAVES:
Defraudulent migration seals slack to dwindleberry unction day by horse drawn day
I could go on. The book is full of sentences that you can pore over and find not even a hook to hang some concept on. However, I feel certain that Sheila Murphy is interested in something other than meaning and this is where she could become interesting to a reader, if they can stay with her writing long enough. It is as if, like Gertrude Stein, she wants to go beyond meaning and reach another sphere of language, where sentences are put together differently and word conjunctions create something new. Sometimes she succeeds and there were lines I really liked as in FOLLOWING:
	When I used to sing I was the flavor of a Sunday roast.
The meaning here is elusive yet it seems to be saying something but it strikes a chord and meaning is irrelevant since it is just a kooky idea and it made me smile. I stopped wondering what it meant because it spoke to me and I think this is, in general, what she is trying to achieve.

Also from ONE BRUSHED PAST:

Look at the dried trees be so slender. See the wheel begin to seem the whole of what we're lacking. Tendencies have finished tending.
from I SAW IN HER FACE MY FACE:
	I heard crisp consonants
	Make punctuation chalk its specificity
To my reading, she is most successful when she is almost saying something that means something, when she closes in on a meaning but falls short of stating it. When she has more of a control and sharpness to her language rather than when she seems to lose herself in it. But a lot of it makes me want to shout "The Emperor's New Clothes!". She seems to deliberately enjoy being inaccessible and mystifying which feels somewhat hostile. I would not want someone who is new to poetry to read this, it could seriously put them off. But I can imagine she might attract a specific cult audience who enjoy letting language itself take them on a trip. She does have her moments and, as she herself might say, there is almost depth here, but too much of it, for me, seems self indulgent and lost inside its own world of signifiers down a cul de sac.

reviewer: Anna-Mai Aberdein.