The Biplane Houses has immediacy too, but of a different sort: here, as so often in Murray’s work, you feel yourself to be getting close to the actual living element of language itself. “Luminous electric grist/brushed over the night world:/White Korea, Dark Korea,/tofu detailing all Japan. . . . ” (“Bright Lights on Earth”). The words are so fresh, they seem to have just formed themselves, effortlessly, like a Van Halen solo, out of some germinal ground of polyphonic gibberish. This is Murray’s special gift: flitting between styles with a fat man’s supernatural grace — and in The Biplane Houses he is a gnome, an aphorist, a composer of haiku, a national conscience and a godawful punster (“King Henry had a marital block”) — he always seems to be uttering at least one or two of poetry’s first syllables. Beginnings obsess him: “Right in that house over there/an atom of sharp spilled my sanctum/and I was extruded, brain cuff,/in my terror, in my soap” (“Birthplace”). Books of real poetry by living poets are a privilege — by poets as alive as this, they’re a blessing. We should thank (to channel Hughes for a moment) our lucky stars that he is our contemporary.
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