American History‘s subjects are the nature of America and its peoples that meditates on shape of the country leaving nothing out with the damage starting at home and most locals. From alcoholism, drugs, political strife, war, racism, industrial greed, genocide and a communion with the environmental surroundings. Historically, covers Washington to the present times, though mostly since Hiroshima. While also including natural surroundings of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the beauty of the Great Basin, the Dakotas, the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Sangre de Cristo ranges. Landscape as home. History and Literary characters are woven through the fabric of these poems that “wag a finger” at our times. Though in nature the poems find an uneasy peace. Traditional poems of haiku, tanka, villanelle, and free verse with words covering the page in abstract juxtapositions as have been called “quirky spacing” but is the mindset and the page location of words written.
The lines of Murphy’s longer poems cascade down the page in torrents of raw energy, crashing against the formidable “institutions” of racism, bigotry, injustice, war, and the galling ignorance of government leaders who delight in brutally controlling those with whom they disagree. Many poems beg to be read aloud, characterized, as they unquestionably are, with all of the elements of strong performance poetry.
By turns philosophical, historical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, pastoral, and always imbued with an “eloquent rage” reminiscent of Ginsberg’s “Howl,” these poems pay powerful homage to not only Murphy’s native California but also to the tumultuous, amorphous history of America.
Larry D. Thomas, Member, Texas Institute of Letters, 2008 Texas Poet Laureate.
Love, lust, family, the hardships of history – there’s flow here and the sharp bones of hard truth. American History is an almost encyclopedic picture of a flawed America and the vision of one of its aching sons.
Floyd Salas, author of Tattoo the Wicked Cross, What Now My Love, and Buffalo Nickel. Winner of PEN Oakland’s inaugural Censorship Award in 1997.
Tom Murphy is what Jonathan Williams would call a “loco logodaedalist,” a resourceful wordsmith taking language to its bursting point. There’s real history here, and a keen perception of what went wrong in America in the last fifty years, told in a lyricism as far away from the romantic age as you can get in a rocket ship without a clutch.
Paul Christensen, author of West of the American Dream: An Encounter with Texas, Strangers in Paradise: A Memoir of Provence, Hard Country and Blue Alleys.
Tom Murphy’s American History takes us on a trip we want to be on. Rich visuals and fresh language keeps us turning the page to see where he will take us next. Depending on your age or knowledge of history you may or may not know all of the characters. American History brings them back to life in a tableau that sheds both light and heat. Bravo!
Odilia Galván Rodríguez, co-editor of the award-winning anthology Poetry of Resistance Voices for Social Justice, University of AZ Press, 2016.
Roll a fatty and get on the bus with Willie Nelson to tour American History! Be sure to invite Ginsberg and Brautigan. Stock enough whiskey and you’ll have a new perspective on our illustrious history, that apparently no one in this country has read. I personally have already stolen a poetic form from this collection. You will return time and again to sip at our country’s’ finest moments. I love this poet and his crazy brain droppings.
Michelle Hartman, author of Disenchanted and Disgruntled, Irony and Irreverence, The Lost Journal of My Second Trip to Purgatory, and Wanton Disarray.
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