- Created: 31 October 2014
Richard Murphy was born on the west of Ireland in 1927. He spent his early childhood years in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka ) where his father was the last British Mayor of Colombo. Educated at boarding schools in Ireland and England , he sang as a chorister in Canterbury Cathedral, won a scholarship to Oxford at seventeen, studied English under C.S. Lewis, and dreamed of writing poetry. From August 1948 to June 1949 he worked as an aide at Government House in the Bahamas, where his father had succeeded the Duke of Windsor as Governor. In London from 1950 he began reviewing poetry for the Spectator, and writing poetry inspired by visits to the west of Ireland, which won him the AE Memorial Award for Poetry in Ireland.
For twenty-five of the next thirty years he lived and wrote by the sea on the edge of Connemara , the source of his best poems. During the Sixties he pioneered a small boat service for tourists and sea anglers on perilous voyages in a traditional Irish sailing craft known as a Galway hooker, named Ave Maria and celebrated in a poem that he read on the BBC Third Programme.
The Mirror Wall (Bloodaxe Books in Britain and Wolfhound Press in Ireland, 1989), versions of ancient Sinhala songs from Sri Lanka , won the Poetry Book Society Translation Award in Britain . Since 1971 he has taught creative writing and modern poetry as a visiting poet at Princeton and eight other American universities. In his long and illustrious career, he has had associations with many luminary figures, such as W.H. Auden, Theodore Roethke, Conor Cruise O’Brien, PeterO’Toole, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.
Of his work Ted Hughes wrote: ‘Richard Murphy’s verse is classical in a way that demonstrates what the classical strengths really are. It combines a high music with simplicity, force and directness in dealing with the world of action. He has the gift of epic objectivity: beyond his poems we feel not the assertion of his personality, but the actuality of events, the facts and sufferings of history’. These relationships are covered inKick – a Life among Writers (Granta Books, 2002), a memoir that covers his life, family and the friendships from which his poetry sprang. He now divides his time between Dublin and Durban, where his daughter Emily and her family reside.
Sailing to an Island , Faber, 1963
The Battle of Aughrim, Faber, 1968
High Island , Faber, 1974
The Price of Stone , Faber, 1985
New Selected Poems, Faber, 1989
The Mirror Wall, Bloodaxe Books ( Britain ), Wolfhound Press ( Ireland ), 1989
Collected Poems , Gallery Press ( Ireland ), Wake Forest ( USA ), 2000
The Kick – a Life among Writers, Granta Books, 2002