Drafts, Fragments, and PoemsThe Complete Poetry
by Joan Murray, preface by John Ashbery, edited by Farnoosh Fathi
In a letter to novelist Helen Anderson, a resolute Joan Murray wrote, “I would rather be mad and bad, erratic and incomprehensible, than vulnerably acquiescent to the drab.” Note how the adjectives in her sentence point to the era’s stereotypes about women’s writing. Luckily for us, every single line in this darkly luminous book proves them to be unwarranted. Murray's poems, wise beyond her years, startle the mind in their brave embrace of dissonance.
—Mónica de la Torre
Had Joan Murray lived beyond her twenty-fifth birthday we’d already know her as a major voice in American poetry, instead of one whose name appears only in lists of the lost. Farnoosh Fathi's fascinating restoration of Murray’s work reinstates some of the poet’s deepest idiosyncrasies, and supplements the contents of the original lone volume with a hearty assortment of previously unpublished fragments and drafts. It arrives as a thrill, vivid with Murray’s irrepressible “mountain of energy” and chewy with its “own personal loud music.”
Up from the archives come poems that will make you feel you’re just learning to read: if vibration is your vocabulary, if unbelonging is your kind of charisma, if you have ever wanted to be a “minnow-silver rain” or to fuck an ocean, if you’re prepared for an empathy so direct that you’d be right to call it otherworldly, Joan Murray is your poet.
Murray’s book seems to me a startling achievement for a poet who died at an even younger age than Keats, a month short of her twenty-fifth birthday.... The improbable poetic adventures her Poems offers have slipped into oblivion, like Eurydice, almost without a ripple.
—Mark Ford, Poetry