Local poet George Murray’s new book of aphorisms Quick is full of beautifully concise, sometimes funny, sometimes profound observations about existence.
Murray has published seven books of poetry including his hugely successful first book of aphorisms Glimpse. He is one of a small handful of aphorists working in the English language, and has been asked to represent Canada at the International Aphorisms Conference on more than one occasion.
“Aphorisms, as I write them anyway, are sort of like poetic essences, the cores of poetry. I try to make the point as elegantly and beautifully as possible in the shortest possible space,” Murray said. “I know it’s an aphorism as opposed to a line of poetry because with an aphorism I don’t need to say anything else.”
Murray stumbled into a career as an aphorist when he was slated to read alongside noted aphorist James Richardson. Murray read from a book of sonnets, and after the reading, Richardson told Murray his poems were full of aphorisms. When he got home Murray began reviewing his notes, looking for aphorisms, and found at least a thousand.
“I think some of my poems could probably have been trimmed back to aphorisms because the aphorism said it all and everything else was just the framework around it,” Murray said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If an aphorism is a light bulb, the poem could be the lamp that it’s in; it can have its own beauty and its own worth.“
For Murray it was important that Quick be something other than a continuation of his first collection of aphorisms. He wanted to tackle new subject matter from the perspective of someone ten years older than the author of Glimpse.
“Creatively, the first book was a happy accident, somebody pointed out to me that I tend to write aphoristically. When I looked at my notes, I saw most of the book was already there in the notes. It was just a matter of tidying them up and ordering them,” Murray said.
“With this book, I was aware they were aphorisms as I was writing them. So how do I keep them genuine and have that sense of surprise that the first book had? ”
One of the ways Murray made sure that Quick retained Glimpse’s verve and authenticity, while also being its own unique thing, was experimenting with a new creative process. In his most recent book, Murray dissects existing poems, extracting the heart of the poem, and displaying it as aphorism with the author and title of the original poem following in brackets.
“If aphorisms are poetic cores, then there should be aphorisms at the core of any given poem. So I took famous poems and sort of tried to pull out the poetic core by distilling them down to a single line,” Murray explained.
These references to the wide world of poetry give Murray’s collection breadth. They acknowledge that although aphorisms appear to be isolated bursts of wisdom, they do not exist within a vacuum.