The Museum of Truth
The Museum of Truth
From The Manchester Review June 2018 by Ian Pople.
Rack Press’s publisher, Nicholas Murray, has a new pamphlet, The Museum of Truth. Murray is an accomplished satirist and his pamphlet A Dog’s Brexit was ‘warmly greeted by the TLS [and these pages, too] as a valuable and rare example of successful political poetry.’ Murray is also capable of piercing empathy for the victims of politics as in his last pamphlet The Migrant Ship whose title poem poignantly depicted the lives of those undertaking voyages across the Mediterranean to Europe. In this pamphlet, Murray describes ‘The Lampedusa Cross’, the cross created by a carpenter on the island of Lampedusa from the fragments of the boats the migrants travelled in across the Mediterranean. The poem ends with the migrants ‘carrying their grief/ like a question put// again and again/ to the snapping wind.’ Murray’s new pamphlet exhibits all the vivid precision of his earlier work. There is a wide variety of subject matter in this publication; from the Lampedusa Cross just mentioned, to ‘Ballad’ in which Murray’s satirical bent is unleashed on a the variety of sights met, ‘As I went out one morning’; from a poem written after seeing a scene from a film by the Greek filmmaker, Theo Angelopoulos, to a variation on a Welsh language poem. Like Ian Harrow’s pamphlet, Murray’s pamphlet has a slightly elegiac feel to it. The poem based on a Welsh original is called ‘Old Llywarch’, and its third and final section adumbrates the narrator’s disgust at his own old age. The section ends with a warning to the young, ‘You think yourselves certain and your progress so steady,/ but my fate shall be yours, and your future as hateful.’ In ‘God’, Murray wonders ‘when our dialogue ended’, and the poem meditates, musingly and ironically, as if the narrator and God had simply drifted apart. At the end of this poem, also, Murray is more circumspect as to whether ‘that is it, if the party is truly over,’ and ends the poem on the shortened line, ‘or whether…’ The longer and wonderfully built ‘The Dead’ is also a meditation on words unspoken, deeds undoable. This poem too shows Murray’s gift for a telling, but unforced, ending, that nothing we say can possibly change what runs like a river under the stones where we walk, where silence is natural, where talking’s approximate, and nothing is something, something to say. It seems difficult to know why Nicholas Murray’s talent isn’t more celebrated. These poems touch on our contemporary world and its difficulties with a quiet but forensic wisdom.