Salty Ink on a Favourite Poet, George Murray, and His New Book of Aphorisms, Glimpse

George Murray, aka “The Bookninja guy,” aka “one of Canada’s finest extant poets,” just put out a book of 409 aphorisms. Snappy one- or two-liners of wisdom and wit. In a nutshell, an aphorism is a poetry-philosophy fusion, and something more accessible than either. It is the core thought upon which language is laid to construct a poem … minus the poem. They are poetic thoughts, adages, Murray has called them, “The smallest unit of poetry or philosophy.” 

Given this definition of an aphorism, it is a given that Murray be the Canadian poet to put out a book of aphorisms. His poetry is not only accessible, but brilliant, crisp, piercing … and gorged with wisdom. His last collection, one of, if not my personal favourite book of poetry — The Rush to Here — is literally brimming and overflowing with aphoristic pull quotes and epigrammatic qualities. (In fact, yours truly is using a Murray line as the epigram for his current novel in progress: “The same leaf that turns to the light shies from the blaze.”). 

George Murray is that hungry hounddog you’ve seen probe-nosing through brush or rubble, but what Murray is foraging for is truth and understanding in a complex world. And he always finds it, and, more impressively, articulates it in a way that makes the reader nod their head in agreement. It is one thing to write a glistening line of poetry; it is another to have that line be accessible to a reader. To brighten their bulb’s glow, if you will. To enlighten them, with your epiphany. George Murray is that guy. A masterful, accessible poet who is or should be or will be seen as a voice of our times. And he makes it seem so easy. (He’s also the kind of guy that can pull off using shitcrazy as an adverb without faltering the cerebral nature of his poem.) 

So of course he’s the right poet for a book of aphorisms. Famed Irish poet Paul Durcan was one of many to comment on the aphoristic qualities of Murray’s writing and to prod him into releasing a book of aphorisms. Of Glimpse, Durcan has said, “Murray is as philosophically as he is humourously exact: what more can one ask of Glimpse?” This book can be a coffee table book, a fun and quick read, or a work of poetry worthy of being rumpled up in acclaimed poet Don McKay’s back pocket (see photo below). Aphorism authority James Richardson endorsed the book, saying, “He doesn’t preach or teach. He sneaks up on truths from unexpected directions … I’ve got a dozens of collections of aphorisms on my shelves. This one I’ll keep right on my desk.”  

Note: ECW have developed an iPhone app: you can have an aphorism a day sent to your phone! How great is modern book marketing, and aren’t ECW at the forefront of it? 

 Sample Aphorisms 

 3 Funny Ones 

 Writing the erotic poem is like ironing in the nude—sexy for women, dangerous for men. 

 A slot machine is the idiot’s ATM. 

 As we age we study anatomy by witnessing it fail. 

 Seven More Good Ones 

 She looks like a million bucks, but it’s all in fives. 

 The brain is also gut. 

 All your mistakes can tell you is there’s something to the idea things can be perfect. 

 Clinging is climbing without ascent. 

 Coincidence without you here is just incidence, lacking in both interest and potential. 

 Fathers are answers to questions children may never ask. 

 Facing your discontent and being unable to name it is the definition of failure. 

 The universe remains mum on the subject of itself, yet still we hold a mic to its lips as though waiting for comment. 

Esteeemd Poet Don McKay with a copy of Glimpse in his back pocket


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