Michael Murphy

Poet and writer admired for his lucid, intelligent work.

In 1997 Michael Murphy won a bursary with Nottingham Trent University’s Trent Editions.

In three astonishing years, Michael unearthed and edited the interwar work of George Garrett – a Liverpool seaman, writer and activist muc admired by George Orwell – and completed an excellent PhD, Poetry in Exile, in 2004.

By then, Michael’s own poetry was attracting the admiration of his peers.

In 2001 he won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize for “The New Poet of the Year”, awarded by Poetry Review. In judging the prize Mimi Khalvati commented on how Murphy’s poems: they “let me in, not only into their own worlds, but back into mine”.

Michael was the son of an Irish woman and an American but was brought up in Liverpool by adoptive parents, Terry Murphy, a coach painter, and his wife Gladys. As an adult, he would be reunited with his birth mother, Brenda Leahy, and so connected to a family of whose Irish roots he was intensely proud.

After Cardinal Allen grammar school he was apprenticed as a clerk to Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive. The post left him time to read. Then, in 1990, he graduated with a first in English and drama from Liverpool Institute of Higher Education having been taught by the poet Matt Simpson, with whom he formed a close and lasting friendship.

He then became a research fellow at Crewe and Alsager College. While there he considered a theatre career, and took himself off to Bali, Indonesia before going on to Turkey and Hungary. He then returned to Liverpool and, after two years of freelance teaching, won the Nottingham Trent bursary.

In the early summer of 1999 they launched the First International Gateacre Festival. The weekend was an occasion of intense happiness, a kind of prothalamion, a nuptial song to the marriage of Michael and Deryn later that summer.

In 2006 Michael became a senior lecturer in Nottingham Trent’s English and media studies department.

Until the end of his life, Michael continued to welcome friends to the house he and Deryn shared with their two children; to work on poems of increasing power and accomplishment, to listen to music – Debussy’s piano compositions were a favourite – and to study the paintings and prints he had acquired, not necessarily by well-known artists, but because they were worthy of his love.

He is survived by Deryn, their daughter, Eira, and their son, Felix.

Michael Murphy, poet and critic, born 14 December 1965; died 8 May 2009.”

John Lucas, The Guardian (extracts from)

Books by Shoestring Press:

Collected Poems

Allotments