I am very glad to speak on behalf of Murray’s sweet new book – by which I mean to refer to the Italian 13th century term “sweet new style” or “dolce stil novo,” evoked in Dante’s Purgatorio, itself part of a travelling triad, Dante’s Inferno, that sees in Murray’s new book.
The candied casualness of Murray’s THREE TRAVELS both delivers and cloaks its careful condensation of travels, works, love, art, and book arts.
The coloration of THREE TRAVELS looks like a parlour room or a green morning, like a paper lagoon bestirred by a held whinny.
The interior photographs by Joanna Forsberg echo each other: the bicycle rider is like a horizon, the mountain and clouds are like an eye, the horses are like a mountain-scape.
Triads multiply and exponentialize in this little book: the travel triads go out (to Poland), turn over (to Scotland), come back (to New Zealand); you go, you come home, you turn out in writing.
The poetic triads, those quasi-tercets that form most of the book’s poetry, are observational, contextual, and ruefully cheerful – or maybe it’s better to call them constatively generous, as if you were to travel around looking in the usual places for event markers that give you information, directions, and history, and then see that they are also giving you poetry.
Murray’s triads mark the person in places: they’re like poetry signage. They enact the truth that the object-event, and your being in it, and the resulting trace – here, a poetry book – all go together to create cultural geography.
The book’s last travels - through Pureora, Tongariro, and Turangi - estrange the familiar from within, in a complementary inversion of the process of travelling outside the familiar, so that when we return the familiar has been made strange for us – as THREE TRAVELS says – “in a good way”
This book’s geography helps itself speak, with signs and semaphores and place names cropping up across the transmigrations in the lands of the lover, the ancestors, and the home, as this amalgamated sampling indicates:
“Tired? Take a rest on the Hill of Maud in a “do-it-yourself-land”
This is a do it yourself book: its form announces the necessity of redoing the forms and dictates of cultural observing. Its sweet new style performs a combinatory geography that is our constant requirement, here made light and supple. It’s an encouraging companion in that requirement: “Go little book”, as Byron said of his Don Juan -
Go thou and do likewise; slip it your pocket for experience.