I love what some writers can do with words.
Last January, Trish tells me about her soon-to-be-published book. The title is Hemming Flames, she says. My quickest thoughts… fire? forest fire? firemen? wild and out of control fires wanting to contain or control? The response is visceral…fire in the gut?
Months pass and now I hold the hardback book in my hands. I read the title and see the image and make different associations… a cover? clothing? that which we wear? fray? and again…control?
Whatever it is, it gets my attention and keeps it.
Hemming Flames is a beautiful hard back book of very personal poems written by Patricia Colleen Murphy.
The weekend before I get Murphy’s work, a friend drops over to pick up a book she lent me last summer. I recall how I respond to Adrienne Rich’s book, Driving into the Wreck. The title and the words hold my attention. I read through the book the first day and then I have to put it down. It takes time for me to come back to it and read again – slow and careful. I have feelings of determination (to continue reading) and curiosity (understand).
The day I get my copy of Hemming Flames I read late into the evening and then some more first thing the next morning. The days that follow I come to it with curiosity and I have to say…once again that odd feeling of determination…to read with care and let it sink in.
I email Trish. I ask how people have responded.
The book has been very well received. I am so glad it’s out in the world. A lot of people have mentioned that they feel it is a brave book. I’m glad for that because it was hard to be that brave.
I agree, she does courageous work.
I thought she meant costumes but she meant
what’s inevitable when you’re down. It is how
to stay exceptionally strong, she says. She says
this to me often out of one of her many mouths.
We’re born prone, she says. Then we roll onto
our bellies. Up, she says. Get up, she says. Get up.
I am down and I hear her in the other room.
Without visual clues, I can’t tell the exact
meaning of her statements. She says, it is not
hyperbole if it is true. She says, you began life
as a vowel. She says, people incapable
of guilt can have a really great time.
Years ago, fresh out of grad school, I take lines from Sylvia Plath’s writing. I creat a series of small drawings (stream of consciousness narratives). Pulled in by how Plath organizes her words and thoughts, I want to make sense of her writing. I do this with Doris Lessing’s work too. I don’t work in this way anymore but it’s easy to imagine Murphy’s words could hold the framework for such a series.
Here are lines (from different poems) that catch my attention. I separate each by indentation. What I could draw out – I wonder…
I drop a smile into the tub
near the edge. Irretrievable!
and then he carves
sailboats into the linoleum.
all studium and no punctum
I spend all day in a room
with every item I will ever own
Doctor put me on the stare-pills.
I can’t feel my distal parts.
To learn more about Patricia Colleen Murphy and her work go to → hemmingflames.com.
Patricia Colleen Murphy teaches creative writing at Arizona State University where she is the founding editor of the literary magazine Superstition Review. Her poems have appeared in many journals including The Iowa Review, Quarterly West, American Poetry Review, North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, Natural Bridge, Black Warrior Review and others. She has received awards from the Associated Writing Programs and the Academy of American Poets, Gulf Coast, Bellevue Literary Review, The Madison Review, Glimmer Train Press, and The Southern California Review. A chapter of her memoir-in-progress is published as a chapbook by New Orleans Review.