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The Pleasure Ground: Poems 1952-2012

Authors: Richard Murphy

Published by Bloodaxe Books

ISBN: 9781852249861

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Richard Murphy, now in his eighties, is one of Ireland’s most distinguished poets, known particularly for poems drawing on the people and history of the west of Ireland with classical rigour and 'unvarnished' clarity. He emerged in the 1950s with John Montague and Thomas Kinsella as one of the three major poets in the new Irish poetic renaissance.The Pleasure Ground expands the scope of his much acclaimed Collected Poems of 2000 to include a selection of new poems along with an appendix featuring illuminating commentary on the historical and personal background of some of his most notable work, including 'The Cleggan Disaster', 'The God Who Eats Corn', The Battle of Aughrim, and the poems of High Island. The Pleasure Ground is a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation.

' 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.

‘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... 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 was born in 1927 at Milford, near Kilmaine, County Mayo, and spent part of his childhood in Ceylon, where his father was the last British Mayor of Colombo. From the age of eight, he attended boarding schools in Ireland and England, winning a scholarship to Oxford at seventeen. After years of displacement, marriage and divorce, he returned to Inishbofin in 1959 and settled for twenty years at Cleggan, writing there and on Omey and alone on High Island. He moved to Dublin in 1980, detaching himself from the beloved country of his past the better to reach it in poetry. Living since 2007 near Kandy in Sri Lanka, he finished this book while building a clay-tiled Octagon on a hill-top, for writing, meditation and yoga.

Richard Murphy won the Æ 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 Aosdána in 1982, and received the American Irish Foundation Literary Award in 1983. He received the Society of Authors Foundation Award in 2002.

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