Saturday, May 09, 2009

Michael Murphy, poet, RIP 

My friend and colleague Michael Murphy died yesterday after a long illness. Michael, who was only in his early forties, was a fine poet and a lovely man. I wish I'd known him better, but shortly after he started to work at Nottingham Trent he was laid low by the brain tumour that was to cause his death. I last saw Michael in August, at the National Wildflower Centre in Liverpool, where he lived. He was launching a pamphlet of poems, 'Allotments', written during his 2005 residency at the centre. Michael was in good form that evening but, when we talked, had no cause to be optimistic. His was a heartbreaking long goodbye. To the left is the one decent picture I snatched, of him signing our copy of his pamphlet. George Szirtes was also there that night and has written about Michael here. I'd like to send my condolences to Michael's wife, Deryn, and to their young children, Eira and Felix. Rather than try and explain what made Michael such a good poet, I'm going to type out one of his poems so that you can see for yourself. Perhaps the most appropriate choice is the title piece from his second full collection, published by Shoestring in 2003.

Rest in peace, Michael.


Do you remember burying the thrush
we found late out on the cinder track
beside the railway; perfect as a mammoth
swaddled in a coat of soil and permafrost,
how you wrapped him in a Kleenex
among broken pots, split canes and bulbs
sprouting in the loamy darkness
under your dad's shed?

All night,
at opposite ends of the city, we waited
to see if - if - feathers, beak and all the
intricately coiled stuff

had, with morning, ascended.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Love Lessons 

A few words about the images above. They're wordles. A 'wordle' is a web tool that allows you to see how frequently words appear in a given text. You can tweak your word "clouds" with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. Do your own here. I've pasted in the 3000 words that make up the afterword to the new edition of my best known novel Love Lessons, which Five Leaves publish later this month. The result is above, giving you a flavour of the new afterword. The higher wordle (with the brown background) is what happens when you put in just the first page. Double click to see a bigger image and check out the differences between the two. I was going to publish an extract from the afterword on this blog, but the above seems a better way to go. While I've been writing this, my copies came and it's a really handsome edition, on excellent paper. I'll be talking about and reading from the book at Leicester Writers' club next week (May 7, 7.30-9pm, The Small Hall, Leicester Adult Education College, Wellington St, free, no ticket required) along with two fine first novelists, Clare Tulloch ('Drowned') and Dan Tunstall ('Big and Clever'). We'll also be talking about writing for teens.

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