Joan Murray

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For other people named Joan Murray, see Joan Murray (disambiguation).
Joan Murray
Born (1945-08-06) August 6, 1945 (age 71)
New York City, New York, United States
Occupation Poet, writer, editor, playwright
Nationality American

Joan Murray (born August 6, 1945) is an American poet, writer, playwright and editor. She is best known for her narrative poems and her book-length novel-in-verse, Queen of the Mist. In 1999, her collection Looking for the Parade won the National Poetry Series Open Competition.

Early life and education[edit]

Joan Murray was born in the South Bronx and attended Hunter College, first as a studio art major, and later as an English major, winning Hunter College's Bernard Cohen fiction prize. She married at 19 and had two children (one of whom died in infancy). She earned an M.A. from New York University and, in 1970, began teaching at Lehman College of the City University of New York.


Murray’s first collection, The Same Water, won the Wesleyan New Poets Series Competition and was a finalist for the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award. Her second book, Queen of the Mist, a novel-in-verse about the first person to go over Niagara in a barrel, was chosen by Joyce Carol Oates as runner up for a Poetry Society of America award; she was also commissioned by Broadway’s Jujamcyn Theaters to adapt it for the stage. Her third book, Looking for the Parade, was chosen by Robert Bly as winner of the National Poetry Series Open Competition. Her fourth book, Dancing on the Edge, was published in connection with her bestselling 9/11 anthology, Poems to Live By in Uncertain Times.

Murray's poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in journals including Atlantic Monthly, Harper's,[1] The Hudson Review, the Paris Review,[2] Poetry, The Nation,[3] The New York Times, the Village Voice, American Poetry Review, the Ontario Review, and in anthologies, including The Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize.

Typically Murray’s poetry focuses on actual people and situations and is characterized by its narrative structure, detailed imagery, long, rhythmic lines and emotional effects. The Poetry Foundation has said of it, “Working in free verse, Murray is a master of the single, unforgettable detail. Her accessible, image-driven narratives harness the urgency of their moral or social context while staying true to the pacing and music of daily life.”[4]

In addition to her career as a writer and editor, Murray has held several positions in education and the arts. She was Writer in Residence at the New York State Writers Institute at the State University of New York at Albany, and Poet in Residence at Olana, the museum-home of painter Frederic Church. She has also taught writing for many statewide programs, including New York State Poets in the Schools and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She also worked as an arts consultant and writer for the New York State Council on the Arts, for whom she designed a grant initiative for individual artists, and coordinated a multi-year project for independent publishers.

Murray currently lives and works in Old Chatham, New York.[5]




  • Dancing on the Edge. Beacon Press. 2002. ISBN 978-0-8070-6871-7. , poetry collection
  • Looking for the Parade. W W Norton & Co Inc. 2000. ISBN 978-0-393-32064-0.  (winner of the 1998 National Poetry Series), poetry collection
  • Queen of the Mist: The Forgotten Heroine of Niagara. Beacon Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-8070-6852-6. , novel in verse
  • The Same Water. Wesleyan University Press. 1990. ISBN 978-0-8195-1183-6.  (Wesleyan New Poets Series winner), poetry collection
  • Egg Tooth, Sunbury Press, 1975

As editor[edit]

External links[edit]