Aidan Murphy was born in Cork in 1952. He lived and worked for many years in London, marrying there, and starting a family. He published his first two collections with London publisher Alison & Busby, who co-published with Dermot Bolger’s Raven Arts Press in Dublin. Murphy returned to Ireland in the late 1980s to settle in Dublin and work with Dermot Bolger as an editor for Raven Arts Press, where he was responsible for publishing the poet Patrick Galvin’s memoir Song for a Poor Boy among other notable titles. He continues to live in Dublin.
Alcohol has featured in the lives of many writers but no one has written about its effects so affectingly and with such stark honesty as Aidan Murphy. None of Bukowski’s false glamour or heroics of the drinking life are to be found in Murphy’s poems and Murphy’s stanzas and poetic line also successfully avoid Bukowski’s flaccid forms.
There is a muscular male minimalism to Murphy’s language, more influenced by the demotic of American verse than by the poetic speech of the European Western Archipelago (known in Britain as the British Isles). It is a male speech which avoids the asserted invulnerability of machismo. If anything, the male protagonists in Murphy’s narratives and monologues are only too aware of their own fragility. There is a bravery at work here too, too well-informed to be mistaken for foolhardiness. Murphy’s protagonists realise that life is threatening to break them, but they always manage to summon the last of their spiritual resources to avoid being broken.
Many of the issues which have emerged to make a man’s place in today’s world less certain dominate Murphy’s themes: marital breakdown and the difficulty of fathering in such circumstances; substance abuse; and economic marginalisation. Murphy, while never without literary friends and companions, has always been an aesthetic outsider on his side of the Atlantic. Murphy and the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño never knew each other, or each other’s work, but their lives and poetic careers possess many parallels. While Bolaño is prematurely in the grave, thankfully Aidan Murphy is still with us.
The Restless Factor, Alison & Busby, London, 1985
The Way the Money Goes, Alison & Busby, London (a Poetry Book Society Recommendation), 1987
Small Sky, Big Change, Raven Arts Press, Dublin, 1989
Stark Naked Blues, New Island Books , Dublin, 1997
Looking In at Eden, New Island Books Dublin, 2001
Neon Baby – New & Selected Poems, New Island Books, 2007
Youtube video of Murphy reading
Entry about Murphy on the Munster Literature Centre website
New Island, Murphy’s publisher