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Richard Murphy Biography

(1927– ), Sailing to an Island, The Battle of Aughrim, High Island, The Price of Stone

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Mr Polly to New France

Irish poet, born in Co. Galway; he spent much of his childhood in Sri Lanka, where his father was the last British mayor of Colombo. He was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, and the Sorbonne. He was skipper of the fishing boat described in his poem ‘The Last Galway Hooker’ from 1960 to 1967, after which he held a succession of visiting posts at American universities. His collections of poetry include Sailing to an Island (1963), The Battle of Aughrim (1968), High Island (1974), The Price of Stone (1985), and New Selected Poems (1989). Much of his best poetry is in the form of extended sequences through which he pursues his concern with personal and cultural identity. A productive tension exists in his work between his sense of his Protestant Ascendancy background and a broader Irish cultural heritage. The persistence of history in the landscapes of his verse is richly suggested by his keenly observed imagery of artefacts and natural features. Murphy's accomplishment in traditional forms is suited to his urbane levelness of tone. Freer verse is used in The Mirror Wall (1989), which contains his versions of ancient Sri Lankan poems. He edited The Mayo Anthology (1990), stories and poems about County Mayo.

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