Murray, Joan 1945-
MURRAY, Joan 1945-
PERSONAL: Born August 6, 1945, in New York, NY; daughter of Charles George (a building inspector) and Vera (a typist and translator; maiden name, Bjork) Schwetje; married James Murray (a counselor), August 29, 1964; children: James Charles. Education: Hunter College of the City University of New York, B.A., 1969; New York University, M.A., 1970, doctoral study, 1970-72.
ADDRESSES: Home—39 Granger Pl., Buffalo, NY14222.
CAREER: Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, instructor in English, 1970-74; freelance writer, beginning 1974. Coordinator of Bronx Poets Alliance, 1974-77. Poet-in-residence, New York State Writers Institute.
MEMBER: International Women's Writing Guild, Poets and Writers, Poets and Writers of New Jersey, Sigma Tau Delta.
AWARDS, HONORS: Named artist of the month, Bronx Council on the Arts, 1976; National Poetry Series Award, 1998, for Looking for the Parade; Gordon Barber Award, Poetry Society of America; fellowships from National Endowment for the Humanities and New York Foundation for the Arts; Knight Foundation fellowship, Yaddo.
Egg Tooth (self-illustrated), Sunbury Press (Raleigh, NC), 1975.
The Same Water, Wesleyan University Press (Middle-town, CT), 1990.
Looking for the Parade, Norton (New York, NY), 1999.
Queen of the Mist, Beacon (Boston, MA), 1999.
Poems to Live By: In Uncertain Times, Beacon (Boston, MA), 2001.
Dancing on the Edge, Beacon (Boston, MA), 2002.
Editor, The Best of Pushcart Poetry, 2002. Contributor to anthologies, including In the Looking Glass: 21 Modern Short Stories by Women, edited by Nancy Dean and Myra Stark, Putnam, 1977, and Mothers, Daughters, edited by Lyn Lifshin, Beacon Press, 1978. Contributor of poems and articles to literary journals and popular magazines, including Atlantic Monthly, Ms., and College English, and to newspapers.
SIDELIGHTS: In her 1999 volume Queen of the Mist, poet Joan Murray submits a book-length poem on the life of Annie Taylor who, at age sixty-three in 1901, became the first person to survive an intentional plummet down Niagara Falls in a barrel. While Annie hopes to parlay this success into a career as a public speaker, her age and gender work against her, and the daredevil woman ends up as no more than a sideshow attraction. "Taylor's preparations, her inner motivations and the plunge itself are all movingly rendered" by Murray, a Publishers Weekly contributor decided, adding that the real strength of the poem is in the depiction of the unhappy aftermath of Taylor's stunt. "Highlighted by mystical flashes," noted Booklist writer Ray Olson, Queen of the Mist "reads so naturally that it seems to be a sterling one-woman show."
The National Poetry Series winner Looking for the Parade is a collection divided into sections; in each, one poem is set in a cemetery. The verses illustrate a woman's search for self-identity. The title piece concerns a fruitless search for a Memorial Day parade, which "ends in communion," said Olson in another Booklist review, "with the buried." Olson's praise for this volume extended to Murray's 2002 collection, Dancing on the Edge. The Booklist critic found that the poems in the latter work treat "dramatic incidents in particular lives as revelatory and instructive for all lives," and concluded that Dancing on the Edge is "not to be missed."
Joan Murray once told CA: "My writing takes shape from my own experience: a working-class background, feminism, social protest, family life, urban and rural visions and encounters. Though I write in free form, my poems have been praised for their lyrical qualities (I have a musical ear that tunes me to their rhythms and tones) and their strong imagery (I worked as an artist and seek strong visual texture in writing). Critics have noted too the accessibility or immediacy of my poems for the reader. Subjects may vary from a raw murder on a city street to an ironic musing in an old country graveyard. Though my fiction is less autobiographical and sometimes experimental in form, it most often takes root from my own life or the things I've witnessed."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Book Review, autumn, 1991, review of The Same Water, p. 23.
Bloomsbury Review, March, 1999, review of Looking for the Parade, p. 9.
Booklist, March 1, 1990, review of The Same Water, p. 1259; February 15, 1999, Ray Olson, review of Queen of the Mist, p. 1029; April 1, 2002, Ray Olson, review of Dancing on the Edge, p. 1294.
Hudson Review, spring, 1991, review of The Same Water, p. 159.
Ms., September, 1991, review of The Same Water, p. 72.
Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1999, review of Queen of the Mist, p. 88.
Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1999, review of Queen of the Mist and Looking for the Parade, p. 9.*