Monday, August 9, 2010

Jim Murdoch's "This Is Not About What You Think"

This is Jim Murdoch.  He's Scottish. He's intelligent. When you read stuff he's written and understand it, you feel intelligent too.

I can't even begin to pretend that I know how to review a book, but what I can tell you is why I enjoyed this collection of poems.

Jim writes how you wish you could write, but not so much that the jealousy prevents you from laughing at the things you wish you'd said, like, "I'd give my childhood a three. That's me being generous." This is from his poem, "Marks."

His poems follow a thoughtful progression with "Advice to Children" interspersed throughout - things you probably are happy to read now, but glad you didn't have to hear when you were a child. This, from "Imaginary Friends: "People leave; it's what they do..."
As you read along, you will be struck by his wit and adeptness. You'll be thinking, "Oh, there's so much humor here. This is a fun book." But at page 39, your breath will catch in your throat. The poem "Still Birth" will make you realize this man can not only be glib, but he has a depth of feeling that transcends gender barriers. Then you will go back and reread his poems with new eyes.

A major theme in Jim's life is THE TRUTH. You will see it here. In his poem "Shadowplay," he says, "What are lies but truths gone rotten and secrets lie in that no man's land between the two." Man, I wish I'd written that, because I think it's so true.  The major theme of his blog and novel, Living with the Truth is found in "Old Flames In the Rain."   
"...and the truth about lies
is we can't live without them.
Not even the white ones."
The title of this collection is ironic because Jim gives you permission right away to make of these poems something he never intended or imagined so it pretty much is about what you think.
 Click HERE to order
to read excerpts - http://www.jimmurdoch.co.uk/think_excerpt.html

34 comments:

  1. I will follow his blog. I look forward to learning more about him, aka stalking him, poking him and generally nebbing about him... I'll see about these poems, too.

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  2. JULIE - Stalking and poking are the highest forms of appreciation. I thank you and I'm sure Jim thanks you.

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  3. That would m ake a reader want to read Jim's book, I reckon. What more can you ask of a review? Well done

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  4. Yay - now he'll pen another Aggie and Shuggie (can't remember how he spells them!)

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  5. Ah, Kass, that was lovely. What a lovely review. And, yes, it was a review, better than a lot that I’ve seen in print journals. For me the best thing about this collection is the fact that you’ve highlighted one of the key poems in the collection, ‘Still Birth’, a poem I’m particularly proud of. It was written for a girl I worked with for seven years and loved like another daughter. I always imagined that when I left we’d keep in regular contact but as you know I was very ill when I left that job and it never happened. And then one day, I got an e-mail from her explaining why I’d not heard from her, she’d lost her little girl. The e-mail had a very powerful effect on me and I sat down almost immediately to write the poem. I think I left it for a day before seeing if it needed any tweaking but essentially what you see there is what I wrote, a spontaneous outpouring of emotion.

    It’s good too that you chose to highlight ‘Shadowplay’. Interestingly the two lines in that poem that I’m always quoting are:

        No, I don't believe in destiny
        but I do in inevitability.

    That was one of those poems, a bit like ‘Still Life’, where I sat back and thought: Did I just write that? There are a few poems, and chunks of prose, that have that effect on me. They so perfectly encapsulate what I was trying to say that I find it hard to believe that I wrote them and usually with such ease. Seriously, ‘Still Life’ took hardly any longer to write than it takes to read. I think moments like that are comparable to those instances where mothers lift cars up to free their children underneath.

    @Julie – Always happy to have another stalker. I hadn’t hear the term ‘nebbing’ before but the definition is an obvious one. There’s plenty of material on my blog for you stick your nose into. You might like to start with this link to the first section of the book, 13 poems to whet your appetite.

    @Rachel – one is already brewing. I’m afraid that Kass will have to share it with Lena from Gloom Cupboard and possibly one other I’ve been told might go up today.

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  6. This is a jolly fine and wonderful review of a wonderful man's wonderful poetry anthology.

    I'll bet Jim's blushing. Thanks, Kass.

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  7. Aw this was a great review, I love how you explain that he writes the way we wish we could write.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog!

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  8. @Lis - To be totally honest I was busy panicking about how I was going to cram references to three reviews in the one ‘Aggie and Shuggie’. But I’m calm now. It’s done and will be up on Thursday.

    @Sangu – Kass has been reading my poetry for quite a while now and reading what I have to say about poetry on my blog so she’s in a very good position to pass comment on my writing. Left a prompt on your latest post by the way.

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  9. Sounds like botha book and blog to enjoy. Thanks for the thoughful words.

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  10. @Out on the prairie - I'd be glad to see you visit. I don't write much about nature but I write a lot about human nature.

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  11. Kass, as if your intriguing and thought provoking review wasn't enough to capture my attention, well then the comments definitely seal it for me.

    Coming from one whose own poetry I admire, this is a pretty big endorsement and I for one am leaping over to check it out :)

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  12. Kass and Jim -- this is a fascinating blog/review, you made me want to know more about Jim and his work, and now his answers comments above convinces me I should follow too. Thanks to both of you.

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  13. @Vicky & June – Glad you’ve found something in my poetry that’s touched a chord. Don’t forget to check out the sample poems on my website. There's also a new review up at Poet Hound with a couple of other poems.

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  14. I am one of the luckiest bloggers in the world to have found you .... and Jim too!

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  15. This reads like a proper review to me, and a jolly good one too!

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  16. @Helen – I’m glad to be found too. The thing is, a lot of the poems in this collection have probably only been read before by, at the most, my wife and my daughter. They were well and truly ready to be discovered.

    @Eryl – I agree totally, and a perceptive one too.

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  17. I've read Mr. Murdoch's comments on Elisabeth's Sixth in Line blog and always found them interesting. I confess I didn't realize he was a poet, too. Judging by these few samples, he seems to be a pretty good one.

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  18. This looks like a truly wonderful collection. I'd like to own it. One can never have too many poetry books! Love the inkblots on the cover too.

    Thanks for stopping by IHATH, Kass! Great getting to know you. That k in know is silent but it's OK.

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  19. @Kirk – Yes, been writing poetry for nearly forty years. I was 35 before I wrote my first novel and 45 before I tried my hand at short stories. Amazed you noticed me on Lis’s site with all the comments she gets. Thanks for the kind words. As I’ve already mentioned above you can read the entire first section of the book on my website. There is also another page of poetry here, poems that aren’t in the book but will give you an idea of what else I can do.

    @Jenny – And I would love you to own a copy of my book. The best way to order it is directly from the FV Books site via PayPal. It’ll ship from the UK but I’ve kept my prices down to try to keep it affordable. The price to ship to the USA is £8.50 (about $13.34). Here’s a link.

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  20. what you say about jim and his words make me grincurious.

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  21. @N Davis Rosback - I've never made anyone grincurious before. Definitiely a first.

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  22. Well, I love it when someone intrigues me. And I am officially intrigued. At 52, it doesn't happen often often...so it's all good.

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  23. @Maria - Well I hope you're sufficiently intrigued to pop over to my website and check out some of the poems there.

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  24. Before additional time passes, I wanted to say thank you, Kass and Jim, for the introduction to work I didn't know. Trust as a theme or a goal is not easily captured...the time required to think or feel our way toward it, its ability to alter in ways nearly impossible to detect. And I will visit your site to read more.

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  25. @Marylinn - Thanks for that comment. I have to say I’d never really thought of trust as one of my topics but stepping back I think you might have a point. It’s great how readers can help open up one’s own writing. I hope you find the time to check out the poems on my website too.

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  26. Kass, this is a very fine review, so no need for self-deprecation. But now I must forget it, because I will be writing a review of Jim's poetry as well! Soon...

    By the way, I wouldn't be suprised if we have acquantances in common since I lived much of my first 34 years in SLC and Happy Valley :-).

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  27. always the last to show...just wanted to say i enjoyed the review and look forward to reading jim's work (blog and poetry). i am always trying to study up on trust...

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  28. @Sherry - The important thing is that you turned up. If you haven't checked out the links yet, Annie over at Jottings of an AmeriQuebeckian has just written a nice wee article, featured one of my poems and added in a pile of links.

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  29. hi Kass,

    what a lovely review. gotta check him out for sure.

    one love.

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  30. @Se'lah - Well now would be a good time to have a look at my blog because I've just posted an article talking about how I came up with the collection.

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  31. I like when a writer is not shy about challenging popular assumptions.

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  32. @Paul C – If there’s one popular assumption I’d like to challenge it is that poetry is something only a select few can get. I have always written poetry that was straightforward and accessible. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily superficial but I’d like to think that anyone anywhere could pick up any of my poems and get the idea.

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  33. The post and the comments are all very interesting but mostly I'm thinking of you and praying for peace and strength for you.

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