"I write and I read in order to hold another human being close.
The territory of my books - the heart of my writing life - has been an exploration of an idea I put forward in Fugitive Pieces, that 'there is nothing a man will not do to another, nothing a man will not do for another,' and the exploration of 'what love makes us capable of, and incapable of.'
My work is concerned with history, with ways of thinking about history. This terrain is perilous - philosophically, morally, emotionally...and I never publish unless I can in some way deliver the reader and myself to the other side. To discover the facts is one thing - but to discover the meaning of the facts, quite another...
In my novels, I test faith to its limits. We don't need repeated proof of the power of violence or horror - a single incident convinces us - but we do need proof, again and again, of the endurance, the power, the reach, the consequences of love."
THE WINTER VAULT
"I am not interested in comparison, but in connection.
The Winter Vault explores three historic events: the building of the massive Aswan Dam in Egypt in the 1960s and its consequences - the dispossession of thousands of people, the dismantling and re-erection of the Abu Simbel temple above the floodwaters, the loss of thousands of archaeological sites; the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada in the 1950s and the drowning of towns, villages and graves; and the rebuilding of Warsaw after the second World War. Is a temple that has been taken apart, stone by stone and rebuilt, still a temple? The mass dislocation of people, the drowning of cities and nations, the replication of cities and archaeological sites, the moving of graves... these are the events of The Winter Vault, and within these events, the destruction and slow reconstruction of a marriage.
I am interested in the complicated relationship between huge historic events and intimate, domestic events. In the relationship between historical grief and personal grief; how we remember privately, and how we remember - and memorialize – publically, collectively. Each community, each nation, faces this question and answers it in its own way, according to its own needs...
This book is concerned with dispossession and what remains: private memory, one's own body, language... A winter vault is a small building in a cemetery where the dead are held when the ground is too frozen for graves to be dug. The winter vault is a metaphor for history – sometimes the dead are laid to rest a few weeks later, a few months later, a generation later...sometimes the dead are never laid to rest.”
And how we might rebuild the heart after such devastation – that is what The Winter Vault seeks to understand."
ALL WE SAW
All We Saw insists that death must "give / not only take from us."
The last weeks and hours before the imminent death of one we love - a time both urgent and utterly suspended. "The stillness between silence/and muteness". And desire so extreme it is rendered chaste. No words are restrained or spare enough, but these poems try to render language chaste. These poems try to name the suspended moment – weeks and hours – before "desire forcibly/is renamed/ grief… the precise space between/ those two words."
"Some poems emerge from silence, others - from speechlessness. Correspondences emerged from speechlessness.
Correspondences is an elegy for the German poets Paul Celan and Nelly Sachs, and for other historical figures, some well-known, some barely known. For the men and women gathered here, language is the rescuer. Whether mathematics or paint, mother tongue or adopted tongue, each cast himself, herself, into a language, hoping it would not be a fall into emptiness. One might say they spoke a language the dead might understand and trust: the language that faces the fact that perhaps there is no listener. In bringing these men and women together was the hope of shelter.
In Correspondences, the intention was to boil language down to an absolute simplicity — the barest language I could find in myself - to take everything away and to see what was left.”
VANISHING POINTS (RAILTRACKS)
"This is a work about place and displacement - forced displacement, labour migration, political and economic exile and, because it is about what we carry when we must leave almost everything behind, it is also about love, history, memory. We live in a world where, in increasing and unprecedented numbers, we do not live where we were born. What does this mean, what are the consequences of this? Where do we belong – in the place where we are born or the place where we are buried, the place where we first fall in love, the place where our children are born...?
There is a deeply shared sensibility and intent between John and me. So when we were approached to make a collaboration it seemed a very natural thing to do. We entered straight into the writing, each knowing we would be carried forward by the other. To feel a bond in the deepest writing part of oneself, in the place of deepest intention, is a rare intimacy."
"As a writer, one of many impossible aims, one hope I have, is that I might bring the reader to a place where they stop reading... to cause a reader to lift their eyes from the page and look into a face they love. To lead both writer and reader back into the world again and again, for the first time."
"Many of these poems concern a moment when one must make a life-changing choice - a specific moment of enormous personal consequence.
We desire what we've known, what we've lost, what we've never known. A poem is poised between knowing and mystery."
THE WEIGHT OF ORANGES
"Poetry is a way of holding experience; not holding on to, but holding.
A memory that haunts us is looking for meaning.
Knowledge redefines and extends the boundaries of what we don’t know. That is why knowledge so often feels like loss rather than acquisition.
The first three volumes, beginning with The Weight of Oranges, were intended to speak to one another, and were later published collectively in Poems."
"This book is a meditation on the mystery at the heart of our mortality, about hope in art, and what art makes of death. This book was written after the death of intimate friends and finds its way to a profound solace."
Banner Photo: Tom Murphy