Nationality: Canadian. Born: London, England, 10 February 1924. Education: Queen Margaret's School, Duncan, British Columbia, 1933–41; Mills College, Oakland, California, 1941–44; Victoria College, British Columbia, 1960–61, B.A. (honors) 1960; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1963–65, M.A. 1965; University of Kent, Canterbury, Ph.D. 1972. Family: Married 1) Ernest Haddon in 1944, two sons and one daughter; 2) Walter Dexter in 1972. Career: Special instructor, University of Victoria, 1961–62; head of English Department, Rockland School, Victoria, 1962–63; teaching assistant/ lecturer, University of British Columbia, 1963–66; associate lecturer, Selkirk College, Castlegar, British Columbia, 1968–74; instructor, Douglas College, Surrey, British Columbia, 1974–76; visiting lecturer in creative writing, 1977–79, and in English, 1981–83, University of Victoria; instructor, Open Learning Institute (now Open University), 1984–88. Awards: British Columbia Centennial One-Act Play award, 1958; Macmillan of Canada award, 1964; Norma Epstein award, 1965; Canada Council grant, 1976, 1979; Pat Lowther award, 1982. Agent: Joanna Kellock, 11017–80th Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T6G OR2, Canada. Address: 3825 Duke Road, R.R.1, Victoria, British Columbia V8X 3W9, Canada.
The Enchanted Adder. Vancouver, Klanak Press, 1965.
The Power of the Dog and Other Poems. Victoria, British Columbia, Morriss, 1968.
Ootischenie. Fredericton, New Brunswick, Fiddlehead, 1974.
Selected Poems. Delta, British Columbia, Sono Nis Press, 1974.
From an Autumn Journal. Toronto, League of Canadian Poets, 1980.
Journey. Victoria, British Columbia, Sono Nis Press, 1981.
Adam and Eve in Middle Age. Victoria, British Columbia, Sono Nis Press. 1984.
The Lost Garden. Victoria, British Columbia, Hawthorne Society, 1993.
Blue Ducks' Feather and Eagledown (produced Vancouver, 1958).
One, Two, Three Alary (produced Castlegar, British Columbia, 1970; Seattle, 1983).
Creatures (produced Seattle, 1980). Published in Event 7 (New Westminister, British Columbia), no. 2, n.d.
The Indigo Dress and Other Stories. Victoria, British Columbia, Sono Nis Press, 1986.
Journey Back to Peshawar. Victoria, British Columbia, Sono Nis Press, 1993.
Editor, with Walter Dexter, The Art of Earth: An Anthology. Victoria, British Columbia, Sono Nis Press, 1979.
Editor, Threshold. Victoria, British Columbia, Sono Nis Press, 1998.*
Rona Murray comments:
(1985) In my poetry I attempt to record subjective, personal experience through concrete detail and, generally, through the manner in which the material is spaced on the page rather than through traditional forms, although recently I have been returning to the latter. There appear to be two distinct demands from which it grows: the first to form order, as I see it, out of chaos; the second to record certain ecstatic, usually numinous occurrences. The poems are literal rather than symbolic, and I have been astonished at critics who have ascribed symbolic meanings to my reality. My last book has a political, feminist basis, although I hope it moves beyond this to a universal statement on the varying attitudes in our culture between the male and female. I consider poetry a "given" aesthetic form, realized in a state of excitement, with ease, and then subjected to the writer's critical judgment. Therefore, it appears to be most successful if the poet masters his techniques and then trusts to the mercy of inspiration. I believe that it originates in the subconscious, or in the right side of the brain, or in Yeats's Spiritus Mundi and that all the scribe can do is to wait for its emergence when it chooses to manifest itself. Forced poetry appears to me to be inevitably boring. Perhaps for this reason I am now concentrating on fiction. One can be a professional fiction writer, but not a professional poet, except in so far as one teaches, or writes about, the craft, not in its practice. Presently I have a collection of short fiction under consideration with a publishing house and am working on a novel.* * *
The work of Rona Murray is not well known across Canada, but it does have a devoted following on the West Coast, where she has lived since her eighth year, where she was educated, and where she has taught. Her work includes poems, plays, stories, and novels. She is a serious and thoughtful writer with a characteristic manner who deliberately calculates her effects and then makes the most of them. She is one of Robin Skelton's favorite poets.
It has been noted that "white" is a key word in Murray's work. The word may appear as a noun or as an adjective, but it is always used symbolically, conveying the twin notions of innocence and death. The double meaning is apparent in the following passages, taken from the first and the eighth poems in her Selected Poems (where the poems are numbered rather than titled):
I have been into the halls of the dead;
the old man said I wore white,
and white makes the woman invulnerable,
The whiteness the birches
grasp me closer
any lover or friend.
The collection Adam and Eve in Middle Age counterpoints Murray's poems with reproductions of eleven paintings by the Victoria artist Phyllis Serota. The poems and paintings purport to deliver a message "to all the daughters of Eve." The message is meaningful in a postmodern fashion. Adam and Eve speak in turn, and as the reviewer Judith Fitzgerald has observed, "Here, in true anachronistic fashion, Eve writes poetry and Adam broods over the problems of state, taxes, the scarcity of jobs, and child abuse."
In an earlier collection Murray noted: "I explore / five-finger exercises. / No more." But her poems, her probings, her attempts to find stasis in a changing world do more than that. They journey and return to discover the multiple significances of "white."
—John Robert Colombo