putterings       352   <   353   >   354       index

and puttering water sounding

...The one unbranched bird giving its unplaced cry —
The turbulent titter of disturbed fish perking and puttering water
Neither disturbed nor hindered the proud man’s daughter ₁
The turbulent titter of disturbed fish sounding water,
Neither disturbed nor stopped the proud man’s daughter. ₂

ex Joan Murray, “Time was like the snail,” from versions, respectively, at —

  1. Joan Murray. Drafts, Fragments, and Poems : The Complete Poetry
    Edited and with an introduction by Farnoosh Fathi; preface by John Ashbery (NYRB, 2017) : 63-65
    borrowable at archive.org : link
  2. Poems 1927-1942 by Joan Murray, edited by Grant Code (Yale U.P., 1947) : 79-80
    borrowable at archive.org : link
    and available as pdf (created by Shanna Compton) via “works” listed at wikipedia (link below)

Ashbery, in his preface —

...just reading the table of contents gives one an idea of the strength and sharpness of her work. Here are a few titles : “If, here in the city, lights glare from various souce,” “There are shapes out of the North,” “The Young Host of Rockledge,” "Poem: For Dai,” “You Spoke of Windmills,” “Not that I had ever laughed too much,” “Talk of People in Warning,” “Here where I tamper at the inverted walls of tomorrow,” “I feel only the desolation of wide water,” and “Even the gulls of the cool Atlantic retip the silver foam.”

These I think demonstrate her power of abruptly inducting the reader into the poem in media res. In fact the second, third and succeeding lines often veer in quite other directions... The second stanza is typical of her whirlwind trajectories...

Since Joan Murray is almost by definition a poet of incompleteness, of “uncollectedness”... The meanings of her poems are embedded somewhere in the fluidity and irregularity of her language.

it is no surprise that the casual oddness of Joan Murray’s language would appeal to Ashbery (as it appeals to me). That a mere listing of her titles approaches (a kind of) poetry, is of particular resonance here.

Joan Vincent Murray (1917-42)
wikipedia : link

Joan and Peggy Murray papers
Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History
Collection Identifier: SSC-MS-00295 : link

20 September 2023