A best-of collection from one of Canada’s most ambitious poets
Problematica — a scientific term used to describe species that defy classification. See unidentifiable.
George Murray is a strange beast. Lauded as one of Canada’s leading poets, his work has been published around the world, but here at home, he has never really “fit in” with his contemporaries. By turns archly formal and thoughtful, insouciant and hilarious, each of his six books seems intent on staking out its own identity, standing alone in stark contrast to all others.
Yet, in this judicious selection of new and selected poems spanning Murray’s 25-year career, we see threads and patterns emerge like fractals. From early narrative poems to lyrical explorations of the metaphysical to investigations of the colloquial and contemporary, Murray’s work roams a landscape that includes everything from happiness to regret, love to loss, doubt to faith, anxiety to acceptance.
This collection not only represents the best of Murray’s earlier poems, but also surprises readers with a section of never-before-seen new work, revealing a life spent wrestling with what it means to arrive, live, and leave. Problematica is a considerable body of poetry from a mind that obsessively wanders the edges of thought and language, working to identify what boundaries may or may not exist.
About the authors
George Murray's three previous books of poetry include The Hunter (McClelland & Stewart, 2003) and The Cottage Builder's Letter (M&S, 2001). His poems, fiction and criticism have appeared in many publications in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia and Europe. Murray won the 2003 New York Festivals Radio and Television Gold Medal for Best Writing for his broadcast poem "Anniversary: A Personal Inventory" and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is the editor and publisher of the popular literary website Bookninja.com and a contributing editor for several literary magazines, including Canadian Notes and Queries and The Drunken Boat. He lives in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Adam Sol has published four collections of poetry, the latest of which, Complicity, was released in 2014. His previous collections include Jeremiah, Ohio, a novel in poems that was shortlisted for the Trillium Award for Poetry; Crowd of Sounds, which won the Trillium Award for Poetry; and Jonah’s Promise. He has published fiction, scholarly essays, and reviews for a variety of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Lemon Hound, and Joyland.com. He teaches at Laurentian University’s campus in Barrie, Ontario, and lives in Toronto with his wife, Rabbi Yael Splansky and their three sons.
- Winner, IPPY Awards
Excerpt: Problematica: New and Selected Poems 1995–2020 (by (author) George Murray; introduction by Adam Sol)
It is late, and you are always late
arriving, and the bell has rung
and the lobby lights are flashing—
so, watch the crowd to see
where you’re supposed to go.
Track the shapes of those ahead
looking to find a seat, filing
through the dark beyond the doors,
but stopping before the curtains.
It was a mad rush getting here,
but now it’s out of your hands,
and soon the spotlights will rise
with everyone in their proper
places and the tale will be told.
It is time to make your last
breath deep enough to recount
how all went in its entirety,
the story of how you came to be
standing here in line at the will-call,
late and waiting on a ticket
reserved in your name for a show
you aren’t even sure is still running,
and of which you heard only one thing—
there will be no intermission.
“Problematica is Murray’s radiant invitation to come into the wild arena where language reveals the world page-by-dogged-page. Murray’s poetic thermometer is all the seasons at once. This creaturely feat is the work of an unusual imagination that moves endlessly from ruin to the sublime. Take this record of a poet long at work with you the next time you go to wonder. It is a masterwork of clarity, depth and delight.” — Canisia Lubrin, author of The Dyzgraphxst
“George Murray’s imagination is audacious, astonishing. In his poems, a keen awareness of the interiority of others, the ridiculous passage of time, and the untameable but wounded wildness of language are not subject matter but cardinal points. Reading through his new and selected, it’s obvious Murray has never hitched his work to any bandwagon. This freedom is intoxicating, instructive. He’s an innovative sonneteer. (Thought-rhyme!) He writes hashtag poems — the best I’ve read. I believe contemporary Canadian poets are writing some of the most exciting poetry around. Without a doubt, George Murray is one of those poets.” — Eduardo C. Corral, author of Guillotine