Friday, May 9, 2014

Interview With Ruth Calder Murphy

 Welcome to The Women Behind The Poetry, where we interview women from the 'Journey of The Heart: Women's Spiritual Poetry Project'!  

Today we introduce you to the endlessly creative and multi-talented Ruth Calder Murphy: artist, musician, poetess, novelist, pantheist and mother living in London, UK. 

When and how did you first begin writing poetry?

I remember very clearly the day I consciously began writing poetry. I was seven years old. I woke up one morning and knew that I had to write. I felt excited, exhilarated, even driven. I wanted to write immediately - and did – and also to write forever; which so far, I have. That was the day I knew that whatever else I might become, I’d always be a writer.

Which subjects are easiest for you to write poems on?

This is a really difficult question to answer, because I write about everything! I think for me, there’s almost nothing that I find it difficult to write about. My limiting factors tend to be not subject matter, but time and, occasionally, circumstances.

Which subjects are the hardest for you to write about?

As I said already, I’m not sure there’s anything that I find difficult to write about. Perhaps this is a fairly recent development, though. When I think back – even ten years – I used to find it quite difficult to be truly, deeply authentic in my poetry writing. I could write about my feelings very easily, or about things I could see and touch… But when it came to my deep-down doubts, beliefs, hopes, fears and perspectives, I struggled, because for so much of my life I’d been told what I “should” believe and think. The past decade or so has been a process of disentangling myself from those expectations and becoming truly free to be myself – and honest with myself – when I write.

When do you feel most inspired to write poetry?

This is almost impossible to answer, because I could say “all the time” or “never in particular”. Sometimes, inspiration descends, dawns or explodes on me, without warning and in the most unexpected places – in a shopping queue or whilst crossing a road. Sometimes, I know that I want or need to write about a certain thing and so I sit down and just write, without feeling that “sudden inspiration” at all. Sometimes, I feel so drenched with poetry that I could sit writing constantly for days. Other times, I feel a little bit dry and as though I need to wait for the drips, look for words to begin with and really listen to everything for the whispers to begin…

I most often actually sit to write, early in the mornings. That’s “my” time. I get up – every day - at 3am or thereabouts and it’s quiet. Perhaps that’s when I feel most inspired…

What is your biggest fear or hesitation when deciding to share a poem with the public?

My biggest fear when sharing a poem – with anyone – is the same fear as when I share anything of myself with anyone else: “Will they get it?!”

Being misunderstood is something I really struggle with. I don’t mind being disapproved of (too much!) as long as I’m disapproved of for the truth of myself, not for someone’s misconceptions.

When I share my poetry, it’s for several really strong reasons: Firstly, I feel that I’ve been given this gift, in order to share it. Secondly, I know that much of what I write, touches on other people’s experiences too and so I want to reach out and connect with those people. Thirdly, I want to be known and understood.

It’s this third thing that makes it scary for me to share certain of my poems. I know that there are some people who’ll read them and who will judge me by them. I don’t mind that – as long as they’ve understood what they’ve read and take it in the wider context of all of my poetry and other writing… And this is quite a task, because my published poetry alone is about eight hundred poems, and then there are novels and short stories too… So, really, I have to learn to be content enough in myself that I can cope with being misunderstood from time-to-time!

What is the most profound thing you have learned from writing poems?

I learn so much from writing poetry, and it’s – for me – such a holistic thing, that it’s difficult to put my finger on one thing and say “That’s what I’ve learned”… If I had to, though, I think I’d say that it’s helped me to learn to focus, fine-tune, hone and connect my thoughts. Not just when writing, but all the time.

I think that naturally, I’m quite an “away with the Fairies” type; thoughts scattered, head in the clouds! Writing poetry utilizes this, of course, but it also brings my scattered elements together and helps me to understand myself, and the world around me, better.

How is writing poetry a spiritual process for you?

As I said before, poetry writing is a very holistic experience for me – and in recent years, I’ve found that more and more of what I am and do, is holistic. When I run or do yoga or eat food, paint, play music or write, it’s not just physical or emotional or intellectual or spiritual; it’s the whole package.

I used to separate out the spiritual from the rest of my life, to the point where it felt so separate that I wasn’t really connected anymore.

Poetry-writing, along with the other creative arts (I’m a painter and a musician too) – and also along with physical activities like yoga and running, hugging and breathing – is a form of spiritual practice. It’s an opening up, of all my channels, to Spirit; to my deepest self and the widest, infinite extremities of everything. It’s a form of prayer, or worship, a way of reaching out to Beyond, and also a way of being grounded in my human body, here and now.

What function has writing poems played for you in your life?

I used to say that poetry saved my life. I think it did and I think it still does. I’ve suffered with depression since I was a child and poetry has been a way of coping. Poetry has, I think, over the years, stepped into the breach – between me and the abyss – and has kept me from jumping into it.

This is probably the main function of poetry, for me. Everything else is, in some ways, a part of that; the honing and focusing, the praying and worshipping. Poetry facilitates these things – at least partly - because it’s keeping me from jumping off and out, into insanity, darkness and ultimately oblivion.

It does this by being a form of vessel for my soul – I can put the horror there, and the joy, the ecstasy and exhilaration, the mania and the despair. Poetry holds it, gives it expression and keeps it safe until I can step back and look at it without being consumed by it.

Name some of your favorite poetesses.

Now, this is tricky! There are so many. Alice Walker is up there at the top, with Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath.  Jeanette Winterson, though known as a novelist, writes such poetic prose that I have to include her too… And Sappho. Mary Oliver, certainly… Then, there are people who’re not well-known, but whose poetry really speaks to me. People like Cheryl-Anne and Jennifer Hawley-Zechlin. Even now, I’ve probably missed some!

What effect does reading the poems of others have on you?

Reading good poetry by other people makes me feel connected and inspired. As though I’m part of something bigger; a wonderful web of poets, that reaches in every direction through time and space, with Spirit – or inspiration, life, Human Soul, Divinity; whatever or whomever each poet calls it, him or her - at the centre.

How did you first discover Journey of The Heart?

I can’t remember which poem it was, that I’d had published in The Elephant Journal - there were several, around that time… But Catherine read it and thought that it would fit in well on Journey of The Heart.  She approached me, through a Facebook message, and asked permission to use it. When I looked at the blog - Catherine’s motivations and the community of poetesses here, and also the wonderful poems that were already on the blog, I was truly delighted. It’s an honour to be included in this community and this ongoing project.

Have you publically shared your poetry before doing so via this project?

Yes. I was first published in an anthology twenty years ago - when I was in my late teens. Since then, I’ve been published in various anthologies, journals, blogs and e-zines. I’ve also published four books of collected poetry, as well as a few other books.

What has been your general experience of sharing your poetry on Journey of The Heart?

Being a part of Journey of the Heart is a new and unique experience for me. It’s different from being published elsewhere, even by publishers who’ve used my work more than once. Here, there’s a community, where instead of competition, there’s support, affirmation, love and acceptance – and a feeling of connection and understanding.

Any last words you’d like to share about poetry?

Ruth Calder Murphy is a writer, artist, music teacher, wife and mother living in London, UK. Her life is wonderfully full of creativity and low-level chaos. She is the author of two published novels, “The Scream" and "The Everlasting Monday", several books of poetry and one or two as-yet unpublished novels. She is passionate about celebrating the uniqueness of people, questioning the unquestionable and discovering new perspectives on old wonders. She is learning to ride the waves that come along—peaks and troughs—and is waking up to just how wonderful life really is. You can visit Ruth and view more of her art on her website, or on her writer's page on Facebook. Her books are available on Amazon, here.


~If you are one of the poetesses from 'Journey of the Heart', and would like to appear in this blog, just click here to request an interview. We are excited to learn more about you!~

~If you write poetry and would like to share it on 'Journey of The Heart', click here for submission guidelines. And thank you for your interest!~ 

1 comment:

  1. I love your 'What is poetry? poem, Ruth, and I very much relate to this perspective of poetry, and to how you speak of it as your lifesaver. I've also had this experience in my own life, especially when I was younger. And that feeling of poetry being like a 'vessel of the soul'. Beautiful! Here is one of my favorite lines: " I can put the horror there, and the joy, the ecstasy and exhilaration, the mania and the despair. Poetry holds it, gives it expression and keeps it safe until I can step back and look at it without being consumed by it." Indeed! Thank you for this introspective interview, dear Ruth, and for the lovely appreciations you give Journey of The Heart.