ANDY MURRAY’S SECOND COLLECTION, the self-published Bone Notes, is poetry you welcome with both hands, and keep picking up again. It’s a substantial publication, both in terms of appearance—50 pages and stiff book-like covers—and in content. The language is straightforward, accessible and none the worse for that, the occasional self-indulgent phrase forgivable. Murray doesn’t venture too far from the standard pool of topics—love and death, nature, childhood or adolescent memories, with the odd, sideways glance at topical issues—but it’s what he does with them that matters. In ‘Long hot summer’, his take on the loss of innocence, a boy cycles away after purchasing his first porn magazine, exuberant, rejoicing in his fall:
Life was mine at last.
I was bad and wrong
and finally there was nothing anyone
could do about it.
Nature is mostly as observed by the non-expert, casual passers-by, such as the man in ‘Winter hare’, staggering home drunk through a bitter dawn who crosses paths with a hare “unknowing, burning with life/ in the early morning sun”. Murray has a knack for such vivid description. In ‘Night flight’, which is about a helicopter:
the beats are everywhere,
running beneath the tree-bark,
bruising the moon rise,
pressing its engine into a soft night …
A wry humour implodes in a handful of the poems, more or less successfully, but it’s where that same wryness sharpens and turns bitter that the poems catch your breath; in ‘Death of a rat’, or ‘Smack smack smack’, where a mother’s anger “sometimes makes her flicker/ when she hits for too long.” It’s that “flicker” which makes me keen to see what Murray will do next.