“Go home, boy. Sink your toes in that rich soil and grow some roots.”
Robert Penn Warren, to Timothy Murphy upon Murphy’s graduation from college in 1972.
"Murphy shares with Thomas Hardy his unflinching inspection of the natural landscape at its least promising."
Fifteen years in the making, Set the Ploughshare Deep is a memoir in prose, verse, and woodcuts. It depicts the consequences of Warren's advice for a writer who turned his back on cities and the academic world, who bought and sold, farmed and failed like his forebears, all the while distilling what he saw, heard, or felt into his tall tales and short verses. Timothy Murphy has harvested pheasants and ducks as well as wheat and apples. For him, hunting is often an extended reflection on mortality, yet it also affords apt occasions for his quirky sense of humor.
Father, the dog and I
are learning how to die
with our feet stuck in the muck
and our eyes trained on the sky.
Like Murphy, artist Charles Beck has lived all his life in the bleak yet bountiful country near the Red River. His vividly colored woodcuts, along with Vincent Murphy's reminiscence of Dust Bowl days on a Minnesota farm, perfectly complement the younger Murphy's work. The result is a blending of forms and visions that poet and critic Timothy Steele has likened to Dante's La Vita Nuova.
Set the Ploughshare Deep cannot be easily categorized, only experienced. An American story from deep in the great Midwest, it is as timely as news headlines on the farm crisis, and as timeless as the bucolic poems of Horace and the landscapes of Van Gogh.
Timothy Murphy is a venture capitalist who farms and hunts in his native North Dakota. He was Scholar of the House in Poetry at Yale. The Deed of Gift collects his poems from 1976 to 1996.
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