Timothy Murphy (poet)

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Timothy Murphy (born 1951, Hibbing, Minnesota) is an American poet, farmer, and businessman. He has published two collections of poetry that have been widely reviewed. His work has been compared to that of Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and Richard Wilbur, and Wilbur himself has described Murphy as "a mature and greatly accomplished poet." [1][2] Writing of Murphy's second collection, Very Far North, critic Stephen Burt notes, "When Murphy sounds bad, he sounds obviously bad, like bad late Frost—but his good poems are poems Frost, or Jonson, might have admired." [3]

Murphy studied at Yale University under Robert Penn Warren, graduating (B.A.) as Scholar of the House in Poetry in 1972.[1] However, Warren advised Murphy against an academic career, urging him instead to return to the "rich soil" of his rural roots.[4][5] Murphy returned to Minnesota, and subsequently became involved in several farming and manufacturing enterprises in North Dakota, experiences which are reflected in his later writing.[1]

Murphy published his first collection of poetry, The Deed Of Gift, in 1998; the collection represents all of Murphy's work as a poet through about 1996. In a contemporary review of the volume, Gerry Cambridge summarized Murphy's accomplishment: "There are outstanding poems here, including ‘Harvest of Sorrows’, ‘Sunset at the Getty’, and ‘The Quarrel’, as well as a great number of very likeable, individual, and tautly-made pieces. It would be hard to confuse Murphy with any other contemporary poet. No one else writing poetry in English sounds quite like him." [2] As poet Dick Davis has noted, this distinctive style owes much to Murphy's use of traditional meter and rhyme, unusual among poets today: "His poems are wholly his own, and yet the voice in them lives in and through his mastery of traditional metre, which is so thorough as to seem indivisible from the poems’ sensibility and meaning." [1] This focus on rhyme and meter is exemplified in the following excerpt from "Harvest of Sorrows":

When swift brown swallows
return to their burrows
and diamond willows
leaf in the hollows,
when barrows wallow
and brood sows farrow,
we sow the black furrows
behind our green harrows.
— excerpt from "Harvest of Sorrows" [6]


  • Murphy, Timothy (1998). The Deed of Gift. Introduction by Richard Wilbur. Ashland, Oregon: Story Line Press. ISBN 1-885266-62-6.  A collection of Murphy's poetry.
  • Murphy, Timothy (2000). Set the Ploughshare Deep: A Prairie Memoir. Woodcuts by Charles Beck. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press. ISBN 978-0-8214-1321-0.  Reviewed by David Solheim.[7]
  • Murphy, Timothy (2002). Very Far North. Introduction by Anthony Hecht. Ewell, Surrey: Waywiser Press. ISBN 1-904130-01-1.  Murphy's second collection of poetry.
  • Sullivan, Alan; Murphy, Timothy (2004). Anderson, Sarah, ed. Beowulf. Longman Press. ISBN 0-321-10720-9.  Verse translation of Beowulf. Alan Sullivan was Murphy's partner.[8][9]
  • Murphy, Timothy (August 15, 2011). Mortal Stakes and Faint Thunder. The Dakota Institute. ISBN 978-0982559772. 
  • Murphy, Timothy (October 1, 2011). Hunter's Log. Original art by Eldridge Hardie. The Dakota Institute. ISBN 978-0982559796. 


  1. ^ a b c d "Timothy Murphy, Very Far North". Archived from the original on 2007-02-20.  (collected reviews)
  2. ^ a b Cambridge, Gerry (Autumn 1999). "Rich Gleanings: The Deed of Gift, by Timothy Murphy" (PDF). The Dark Horse: 68–71. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-09-30. 
  3. ^ Burt, Stephen (April–May 2003). "New Poets on the Block". Boston Review. Archived from the original on 2007-10-14. 
  4. ^ Murphy, Timothy (Spring 1998). "Reminiscences of Robert Penn Warren" (PDF). The Dark Horse: 8. 
  5. ^ Haven, Cynthia (November 2001). "Interview:Timothy Murphy". Cortland Review. Archived from the original on 2006-10-24. 
  6. ^ Murphy, Timothy; Wilbur, Richard (1998). "Harvest of Sorrows". The Deed of Gift. Ashland, Oregon: Story Line Press. ISBN 1-885266-62-6. 
  7. ^ Solheim, David R. (October 1, 2001). "Review of Set the Ploughshare Deep: A Prairie Memoir By Timothy Murphy". Great Plains Quarterly: Paper 2202. 
  8. ^ Sullivan, Alan. "About Author". Fresh Bilge. 
  9. ^ Loy, Brendan (July 9, 2009). "R.I.P. Alan Sullivan, 1948–2010". 

Further reading[edit]