Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Poets
Pages: 296
Publication Date: February 6, 2018

Drafts, Fragments, and PoemsThe Complete Poetry

by Joan Murray, preface by John Ashbery, edited by Farnoosh Fathi

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Though John Ashbery hailed Joan Murray as a key influence on his work, Murray’s sole collection, Poems, published after her death at the early age of twenty-four and selected by W. H. Auden for inclusion in the Yale Series of Younger Poets, has been almost entirely unavailable for the better part of half a century. Poems was put together by Grant Code, a close friend of Murray’s mother, and when Murray’s papers, long thought to be lost, reappeared in 2013, it became clear that Code had exercised a heavy editorial hand. This new collection, edited by Farnoosh Fathi from Murray’s original manuscripts, restores Murray’s raw lyricism and visionary lines, while also including a good deal of previously unpublished work, as well as a selection of her exuberant letters.


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deepest idiosyncrasies, and supplements the contents of the original lone volume with a hearty assortment of previously unpublished fragments and drafts.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.”
—Shanna Compton

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.
—Christine Hume

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