Lizz Murphy – the wear of my face

Spinifex Press, Australia, 2021

I find poet Lizz Murphy’s latest volume the wear of my face to be a literary manifestation of the photographer’s capacity to quietly observe – everything from the banal to the exalted is the stuff of her poetry. She writes so beautifully it makes me ache.

This volume speaks of such diverse experiences as women’s work, the children of Syria, the refuge of art and shopping trip aggro.

The works are like an ongoing conversation, a stream of consciousness assemblage of thoughts, actions, reactions, observations of the natural and the unnatural:

I could have felt alone driving through the desert but each tussock spoke to me and once in a while a road sign said yes you are still going the right way

(right of way page 35)

We hear in the words her Irish cadence, the rhythm of speech, and we long to hear her read to us.

So much that Lizz Murphy writes about is, I suppose, mundane, and yet she injects such music into her observations that they are elevated to the sublime. Her nature pictures come of time, proximity and a particular way of seeing things which others may pass by:

In the dark quilt of witching hour ravens stir black on midnight blue  a full moon lights their way…

(exodus, page 17)

And overnight it has snowed  the landscape coated white
Only rusted fenceposts and occasional rock mottles the white paddocks

(what does it take to make white, page 71)

Even her depiction of boorishness tends to the humorous, putting everything in its right place and bestowing importance only to what matters:

His face ugly with anger framed in the half-lowered car window  You fuckbrat  I had dared to escape from a side street at a roundabout

(his, page 26)

Her ‘political’ commentaries kids half price and syria’s children are insistent pleas for us to recognize and act upon our humanity and always with that achingly beautiful turn of phrase, that photographic clarity of image:

You would know him by his flaxen hair
The flatness of his ear  the number on his jeans
Pocket  otherwise he is like so many children of this
War lying like a disposed-of small body in some
Refugee wilderness  feet aching  memories
Exploding  sanctuary sliding

(syria’s children, page 86)

Poetry is important, less read and less published than it should be in Australia. This is one for us to read and reread, to keep by the bedside, soaking up the deliciousness of Lizz Murphy’s words, phrases, ideas and images. She is a wordsmith extraordinaire, but so much more – her work is of substance and she most definitely a woman of substance.

Thank you Lizz Murphy and Spinifex Press for my review copy. I look forward to speaking with Lizz in due course.