This Is Not About What You Think. A Poetry Collection By, Jim Murdoch.
Murdoch is not a poet of excess. Murdoch does not mess about. Murdoch gets to the point, and then gets off the page. In some respects the poems are sterile, not in the sense of imagination, but of being thoroughly clean and free of destructive elements.
And why? Well, they don't need it. As Murdoch says 'Once written I understand myself a little more. I may still be carrying around the same baggage but it's packed a little more neatly.'
That's what I like about this collection – it's compactness, it's neatness. It contains one hundred and four page-poems that do not over-state, or obfuscate. (Obfuscate, is guilty of itself). Each has a simplicity. Each contains a small stone of wisdom. If it's true that 'the idiot talks, while the wise man remains silent' then, Murdoch is wise, for he is brief and insightful.
It is the brevity and succinctness in Murdoch’s poems that make them readable. You can mull over their domestic insights, their wise old mans tale observations; consume them snack size with a moments notice. As Shakespeare wrote'...brevity is the soul of wit...' so I shall shut up, and let the poems speak:
Advice to children V
People are rarely
what they say they are
and never what they think
Or would like to be.
The first lies we tell
are generally to
Reflections of Glass
Her mirrored face reflected grief
and - in the way that some mirrors do -
twisted it (it's a trick of the light).
And when I came to face her, I looked
and I saw nothing and I realised that,
for her, I was not there, as if I were
Tunnel of Love
Love is not a thing you fall into
but an experience you go through
like a long tunnel.
Sometimes I just like to sit
in the dark in ours and pretend
I don't see the light at the end.
For My Father
Dutifully I dial the number and ask for him.
He answers and
brick by brick we build a conversation.
Progressively the pauses
become more frequent
Finally we replace our recievers,
each regretting not having said
what he had no words to say.
Somehow I love him
yet cannot reach him.
'This Is Not About What You Think' charts a life in seven sections, from childhood to adulthood, the life is not necessarily biographical, but it certianly lends from the life of the author. There is some light inside this collection, but there is a scrupulous meaness throughout too. A depression with life, with the hand that it was dealt. But, it is through hardship we learn our lessons, right?
Throughout this collection there is a bleakness hard to over look. Poems of quiet regret, of failed relationships, in particular a relationship with a father which shared not much friendship, intimacy, or love. There is a nihilistic quality in the content, which is hightened by the strict minimalism of the layout. In the content their is a philosophical awareness that life is short, relationships insufficient, meaning transient and contradictory, and emotional lives are burden, we all leave with much left unsaid, in an existence that is opened ended and unfinished.
Critically, I think it lacks fireworks, lacks experiment/danger/chaos, some of the poems feel incomplete, there is not much left to the imagination, ultimately we have a life revealed through surgically small prose poems. But, I like chaos, private turmoil, confessions, messy life, language paly and there is not enough of it in here for me. I much prefer reading Murdoch's essays, reviews, and Aggie and Shuggie skits. However, 'This Is Not About What You Think' is worth buying for its clear and simple insight, its common share in expressing the fear, dread, and anxiety, that mark every life.
Jim Murdoch is a poet, and novelist, from Glasgow. Read more from Murdoch, buy his poetry, buy his novels here: The Truth About Lies