Tim Murphy grew up in North Carolina and attended Eckerd College in St.Petersburg, Florida. He immigrated to Canada in 1978. He worked briefly as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and began publishing poetry. In the 1980s he started a construction company, building many houses in Nova Scotia, then moved to Alberta in 1992 where he continued his constrution career until retiring in 2016. His poetry has appeared in a varitey of journals and anthologies and has been translated into Greek and Chinese. His chapbook Up Cape Fear was published in April, 2019 and is available through lulu.com. He is the current poet laureate of Canmore, Alberta.
I was introduced to poetry in grade eleven at the age of sixteen. I think the poem that struck me the most at the time was "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll. I was enthralled by the sounds and the surrealism, how fantastic images placed in realistic contexts could make us question our perceptions of reality. That poem taught me that "meaning" is not necessarily the most important thing in poetry — that imagery is probably more important, and that a good poem leads the reader to create his or her own meaning by appealing to archetypes and to the subconsious.
At the age of sixteen I started keeping a daily journal. This was the same year I began reading poetry in earnest. Journaling got me over the fear of writing whatever came into my head and I started to trust that voice. I kept the practice up for years and the journal entries steadily evolved into poems. In college I studied poetry and literature and took all the creative writing courses. That's when the poetry really started to flow. I began to think of myself as a poet when I published my first poem in 1978 at Axiom Magazine when I was 22.
A poet's job is to bring the reader or the listener into the poem and offer an experience that leads to some kind of revelation and affects the reader's world view. I think too many poets try to expain their feelings in their poems and that kills imagery and robs the reader of the chance to find their own epiphany in the poem. The poet's job is to meet the reader at that place where personal experience overlaps the human condition. Through identification with that experience, the reader is given a window into the human condition and a chance to discover new things through that extension of their own experience.
“A Breakfast for Barbarians” by Gwendolyn MacEwen. Much has been written about this poem so there is probably not much I can add. What I like most about the poem is how it uses the most mundane, everyday things, like forks and knives, and a wooden table to expose our deepest desires for companionship and expression and experience beyond the ordinary. The comparison of our passions to eating breakfast, the first meal of the day, is such a great analogy. It hits straight to the soul. She also appeals to the mythical in her opening and through many rhetorical lines, repeated anaphorically. Throughout the poem there are primordial references that appeal to that blood-and-guts need we all seem to have to feel life burning within us.