Billy Mills reviews ‘bind’ at Elliptical Movements

Christine Murray is well-known as a champion of women poets via her Poethead blog and the Fired! project. It would be all too easy for this activity to obscure the fact that Murray is a poet in her own right, and on the evidence of bind: a waking book that would be a real pity. It’s a book in five sections, each consisting of short named or numbered poems that trace overlapping natural and temporal processes: the day, the seasons, the unfurling of a leaf, the pun on ‘waking’ in the subtitle, as both mourning and morning. The poems imagistic, fragmentary and echo the tensile logopoeia of Mina Loy:

cinquefoil the amberlight
purelit / renders in ‘leaf’
|unfurls|

fur, not claw,
can rend her nets
laid-out-on-grass.

(from ‘Dawn’)

Murray uses spacing and typography to serious effect, with a special focus on the use of the pipe symbol and italics and faint or greyed fonts as devices to (de)emphasise fragments of text, as in this couplet from the ‘Dawn’ sequence:

winter is a hard place,
winter is a hard place.

But the most striking aspect of the book, to me at least, is her use of pronouns. The third person dominates, with ‘my’ appearing occasionally and ‘I’ not until the last few pages. The effect is to decentre or even deny the speaking voice as medium for the poems. In fact, the predominant pronoun is she/her and this female third person is frequently identified, directly or otherwise, with the natural world:

she awaits yellow spring
willow is the first to don her light-robes

a tree,
plain and ordinary.

(from ‘willow’s’)

The image of the fallen leaf, and specifically the recurring phrase ‘a leaf fallen is always a poem’, lends an autumnal, almost mournful, tone to the book that might be seen as appropriate in this era of ecological crisis, but Murray is not a bleak pessimist, it seems, and images of spring and of the rising sun point to a cautious optimism. Not that Murray is intent on using nature as symbol; her focus is on the world as-is:

the
actual bird,
the image of a bird

the real thing of it
grasps onto a branch.

And the result of this focus is one of the more interesting books of Irish ecopoetry I’ve read recently. Read all 6 Turas Press reviews at Elliptical Movements. Thank you Billy for such a sensitive reading of bind.