George Murray writes with the confidence and craft of an experienced poet but with the surprising freshness of a younger one. In The Cottage Builder's Letter
, his second book of poems following the well-received Carousel: A Book of Second Thoughts
, Murray focuses for the most part on stories, suggestions of stories, and fragments of larger narratives, like the half-hidden suggestiveness of "a row of homes with open doors" or "a room with marble and dark furniture."
Like all good storytellers, he has expanded the poetic dictum of William Carlos Williams--"no ideas but in things"--to include characters as well as things. While concrete images are the landscape and architecture of these poems, characters are their lifeblood. The eponymous cottage builder (his story told in seven linked poems with a driving, Whitmanesque rhythm) arrives early in the century in northern Ontario, where he has never seen "a moon so thin." In the concluding 10 poems, Murray records the unrecorded life of Seamus Mé Féin (Seamus Myself), born in County Antrim. In between, we meet a coroner, an elderly gentleman, a photographer, an Aussie named Jonny, as well as a ewe in attendance at the Nativity.
Murray is not limited to narratives, however. Every poem has its lyrical elements, and occasionally he offers a finely sculpted pure lyric, such as "Rain," whose drizzly catalog includes "the winemaker's rain falls like fat green grapes," "the wind's rain introduced angles to the world," and "the puddle's rain is the beginning of all clouds." These are well-constructed poems, complex yet accessible, entertaining and intelligent. --Mark Frutkin
“[Murray] demonstrates that a firm controlling metaphor in a poem need not obviate the free play of imagination.…Highly impressive.…”
–Globe and Mail