(born 1951, Hibbing, Minnesota) is an American poet, farmer, and businessman. He has published two collections of poetry that have been widely reviewed. His work has been compared to that of Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and Richard Wilbur, and Wilbur himself has described Murphy as "a mature and greatly accomplished poet." Writing of Murphy's second collection, Very Far North
, critic Stephen Burt notes, "When Murphy sounds bad, he sounds obviously
bad, like bad late Frost...but his good poems are poems Frost, or Jonson, might have admired."
Murphy studied at Yale University under Robert Penn Warren, graduating (B.A.) as Scholar of the House in Poetry in 1972. However, Warren advised Murphy against an academic career, urging him instead to return to the "rich soil" of his rural roots. Murphy returned to Minnesota, and subsequently became involved in several farming and manufacturing enterprises in North Dakota, experiences which are reflected in his later writing.
Murphy published his first collection of poetry, The Deed Of Gift
, in 1998; the collection represents all of Murphy's work as a poet through about 1996. In a contemporary review of the volume, Gerry Cambridge summarized Murphy's accomplishment: "There are outstanding poems here, including ‘Harvest of Sorrows’, ‘Sunset at the Getty’, and ‘The Quarrel’, as well as a great number of very likeable, individual, and tautly-made pieces. It would be hard to confuse Murphy with any other contemporary poet. No one else writing poetry in English sounds quite like him." As poet Dick Davis has noted, this distinctive style owes much to Murphy's use of traditional meter and rhyme, unusual among poets today: "His poems are wholly his own, and yet the voice in them lives in and through his mastery of traditional metre, which is so thorough as to seem indivisible from the poems’ sensibility and meaning." This focus on rhyme and meter is exemplified in the following excerpt from "Harvest of Sorrows":
- When swift brown swallows
- return to their burrows
- and diamond willows
- leaf in the hollows,
- when barrows wallow
- and brood sows farrow,
- we sow the black furrows
- behind our green harrows.
—excerpt from "Harvest of Sorrows"
Murphy's second collection, Very Far North
, was published in 2002. Murphy has also published Set the Ploughshare Deep: A Prairie Memoir
(2000), and a translation of Beowulf
(2004) with his partner Alan Sullivan.