When I ordered Abby E. Murray's new chapbook, "Me & Coyote," I initially forgot that it came as part of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series, the fourth in a series of book-length collections made up of three chapbooks by three different authors. The other two poets in this book, Jesse Fourmy and Karen Holman--also fellow students from the Pacific University MFA program--are both poets of distinctive voice and character. Their work deserves its own attention and careful reading.
But tonight I want to write about Abby's poetry, because reading Abby Murray makes me want to be a better poet. By "better" I mean more wild, fierce, and free. Life can drive you crazy, if you let it. Health problems in the family and pressures at work have been leading me up to the brink. How refreshing, then, to read poems that regularly swan-dive off the edge, with such panache.
A poem like "Barnacle's Son" convinces me, completely, that even if a man can't be born from a rough sea creature, it ought to be possible. And within the language of the poem, it is. Equally convincing is the poem "How I Love You," whose lines taper down and down, constricting on the final phrase, in all its tough rightness: "I love you more than / an iron fence / loves her / house." And when "They Took Her Away in a Birdcage," my face wanted to smile and frown all at once.
But Abby's poems are not all mixed emotion and magical realism. She can hold focus on difficult topics as unflinchingly as a poet like Sharon Olds. Abby does just this in "Bones," written at the bedside of a wounded soldier, giving us "the explosion in slow motion:"
crescent moons and teardrops of shrapnel
spiraling up the leg from ankle to groin like
morning glories curling round a fencepost.
My favorite poems make me want to thank a poet for just being most fully themselves. So, thank you, Abby, for being Abby.
I'm off to howl at the moon.
Me & Coyote is available in New Poets | Short Books Volume IV from Lost Horse Press. Read more reviews from the Lost Horse Press New Poets series.