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Pleasure Ground


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About the Author

orn in an Anglo-Irish demesne house belonging to his mother's father near Kilmaine, County Mayo in 1927, Richard Murphy spent part of his childhood in the crown colony of Ceylon, where his father was the last British Mayor of Colombo. He attended boarding schools in Ireland and England from the age of 8, and won a scholarship to Oxford at 17. But his long preferred abode was the north-west coastal area of Connemara and adjacent islands, whose people inspired much of his poetry. Even after he moved to Dublin in 1980, and subsequently to post-apartheid South Africa, he continued to write poetry with roots in the west of Ireland. Since 2007 he has been living - with broadband, 3G, iPad and friends - in the ancient cultural heartland of Sri Lanka, finishing his life's work in poetry and memoir. Richard Murphy won the E Memorial Award for his poetry in 1951. His lyric 'Years Later', which concludes the narrative of 'The Cleggan Disaster', won first prize in the Guinness Awards at the Cheltenham Literary Festival of 1962. The poem was submitted with a pseudonym and the judges were George Hartley, founder of the Marvell Press, Sylvia Plath, and the critic John Press. His collection Sailing to an Island (Faber) was the Poetry Book Society Spring Choice in 1963. The Battle of Aughrim followed from Faber, and from Knopf in the US, in 1968. He received an Arts Council Award in Britain 1967 and received the Marten Toonder Award from the Arts Council of Ireland in 1980. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1969 and a Member of Aosdana in 1982, and received the American Irish Foundation Literary Award in 1983. He received the Society of Authors Foundation Award in 2002. The Price of Stone (Faber, 1985) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The Mirror Wall (Bloodaxe Books, 1989) received the Poetry Book Society Translation Award. His Collected Poems (Gallery Press, Ireland, and Wake Forest University Press, USA, 2000) was shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Prize. The Kick: a Memoir (Granta Books, 2002) was shortlisted for the J.R. Ackerley Prize in 2002. His retrospective The Pleasure Ground: Poems 1952-2012 is published by Bloodaxe Books in Britain and by Lilliput Press in Ireland in 2013.


'One of the truly great things about Richard Murphy's Collected Poems is just how alive the book is to the west of Ireland: its history and people, the landscape, customs and folkways of making a living (as Murphy did) from the sea. But it is not as pastoral that these poems really live; the western islands and the terrain become austere emblematic presences, dramatising an intense struggle for personal and cultural identity. Traversing this geography of the mind, Murphy auspiciously reinvented in The Battle of Aughrim (1968) an historical frieze of war and conflict in the late 17th century spliced through with images drawn, almost cinematically, from 20th-century Ireland - Richard Murphy is an intriguingly available poet and, like those of Robert Graves, his poems have all the bright music of great love songs.' - Gerald Dawe, Irish Times. 'Richard Murphy's verse is classical in a way that demonstrates what the classical strengths really are. It combines a high music with simplicity, force and directness in dealing with the world of action. He has the gift of epic objectivity: behind his poems we feel not the assertion of his personality, but the actuality of events, the facts and sufferings of history - I don't know of any other contemporary poet who has so redeemed the classical manner. Every line is unique and wrought, somehow organic, yet the whole thing is simple. The plainest statements have an almost plastic life and solidarity. And the final effect is of a formal beautifully sustained music of essentials. This kind of poetry, which is nowadays so terribly difficult to write, reminds us that poems too must take their final test of health in the world of action.' - Ted Hughes.

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