The poet, the philosopher and the birds: narrative, self and repetition in Richard Murphy
Meihuizen, Nicholas Clive Titherley
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This article draws on Richard Murphy's memoirs, The Kick (2002. London: Granta) and his poem 'Wittgenstein and the birds', from his Collected poems 1952-2000 (2001. Winston-Salem: Wake Forest University Press, p. 6) to try to define his particular approach to life writing, which I believe to be significantly different in its constructive premises from that of most other memoir-writers and autobiographers. That is, if most writers of memoirs check the events which they are narrating against their memories, 'notoriously fallible and open to schematization', as Jerome Bruner notes in Narrative and identity (2001. Selfmaking and world-making. eds. Jens Brockmeier and Donal Carbaugh, 25-38. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins, p. 28), or against the memories of family members and friends, Murphy draws on his contemporary notebooks, meticulously maintained over many years. Through this memorial and writerly resource he exerts his control over his material, a control always judiciously employed, in keeping with a partiality for what I call 'classical formalism' in his poetry. Memoir writing and poetry, in this respect, share in source material which, considering the initial care Murphy took in writing up his notebooks, impacts on present technical realization in an inherently aesthetic manner. The article concludes by considering the writerly and psychological implications of this control.
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