Sheila Murphy

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Sheila E. Murphy (b. Mishawaka, IN) is an American text and visual poet who has been writing and publishing actively since 1978. Sheila Murphy’s early training was in flute performance. She earned the B.A. degree (music/English) from Nazareth College, Kalamazoo, Michigan; the M.A. degree (English Language and Literature) from The University of Michigan, and the Ph. D. degree (Educational Administration and Supervision, Emphasizing Community Education) from Arizona State University. Murphy’s home is in Phoenix, Arizona. She co-founded and coordinated with Beverly Carver the Scottsdale Center for the Arts Poetry Series for twelve years. Sheila Murphy is known for her Steinesque experiments with language and for the delicacy of her ear in poetic composition. Take, for example:

What a Sweet Strong
what a sweet strong swaysy prong
to factor with
to filter
and to long
but I am gusting past
our habitat and flinging
what we are
into a recap
filled with loitering
and singe and replicasio
from brew
and cha cha
give me seashore
in your breath
and double tithe
(a fifth!)
to make this
go merry as
canary see and shaken saw

Notice the emphasis on sound and the use of neologisms and cadences that derive from study of music theory and performance. These same linguistic processes are evident in Murphy's prose poetry. As Jen Tynes notes in a review of Proof of Silhouettes published in the Feb. 2, 2005 issue of Verse, "The varied structure of the poems creates a super-awareness of prose versus broken line that seems organically fitting--[sic] the reader is never quite lulled into recognition of the landscape or movement of this book, and yet it manages to move together, to speak a whole thing with clarity but without oversimplification. The form of the book as a whole creates...its own considerate and considerable relationship between lines of verse and prose, progression and procession...." In referring to Murphy's prose poems in Letters to Unfinished J., Simon DeDeo (Rhubarb is Susan, Feb., 2006) writes that "Murphy has the sensual fluency of Gertrude Stein..." [and possesses] "...a decided openness that leads to the sensation of risk, of stopping the torrents to speak directly...that maintains a distinctly non-narrative attitude, filling the writing...It is in that pouring that we get the whole Murphy...the Murphy who wants to point out, to judge, to indicate." Recently the prose poem has been the form of choice for Sheila Murphy, who coined the term for a new kind of prose poem, the "American Haibun," which is quite separate from the traditional Japanese form. Critics might question Murphy's use of the term haibun to describe this type of writing, which in truth has very little connection to the original term, but "American Haibun" is being written by other innovative, English language poets, suggesting a possible trend.

The Importance Of Collaboration

Sheila Murphy has an abiding interest in creating collaborative works with poets she admires. As she herself says, "Collaborative projects allow a writer or visual poet to participate in a larger creative mechanism than the usual self, placing the writer in a new, larger system that brings about art that is different from that created by either of the individuals involved. While separate from the individual writer's work, collaboration strengthens muscles that can benefit the individual writer, but not not bear a direct relationship to the writer's individual projects." Murphy is currently collaborating with poets Douglas Barbour, Dan Waber, mIEKAL aND, and Peter Ganick on projects. She is also collaborating with poet/artists K.S. Ernst, C. Mehrle Bennett, John M. Bennett, Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jim Leftwich, Scott Helmes, Andrew Topel, and photographer Paula Silverberg.

Future Plans

Murphy plans in the next several years to propose and curate exhibitions of visual poets representing men and women who work in locations throughout the world. In addition, she plans to integrate poetry into musical composition, utilizing software designed to broaden the range of instruments and sounds into the works.


  • The Case of the Lost Objective Case. Otoliths Press. 2007.
  • Continuations (with Douglas Barbour). The University of Alberta Press, 2006.
  • Incessant Seeds. Pavement Saw Press, 2005.
  • Proof of Silhouettes. Stride Press (UK), 2004.
  • Concentricity. Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press, 2004.
  • Green Tea with Ginger. Potes & Poets Press, 2003.
  • Letters to Unfinished J. Green Integer Press, 2003. * Winner of the 2001 Gertrude Stein Award
  • The Stuttering of Wings. Stride Press (UK), 2002.
  • The Indelible Occasion. Potes & Poets Press, 2000.
  • Falling in Love Falling in Love With You Syntax: Selected and New Poems. Potes & Poets Press, 1997.
  • A Clove of Gender. Stride Press (UK), 1995.
  • Pure Mental Breath. Gesture Press (Toronto), 1994.
  • Tommy and Nell. Sun/Gemini Press (Tucson, Arizona), 1993.
  • Teth. Chax Press, 1991.
  • Sad Isn't the Color of the Dream. Stride Press (UK), 1991.
  • With House Silence. Stride Press (UK), 1987.


  • The First Hay(na)ku Antholgy. Meritage Press, 2005.
  • Fever Dreams: Contemporary Arizona Poetry. The University of Arizona Press, 1997.
  • The Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative American Poetry,1993--1994; 1994--1995. Sun & Moon Press.
  • Primary Trouble: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. Talisman House Press, 1996.
  • A Curious Architecture: A Selection of Contemporary Prose Poems. Stride (UK), 1996.
  • The Art of Practice: 45 Contemporary Poets. Potes & Poets Press, 1994.

Exhibitions of Visual Poetry

  • Visual Poetry Etched on Glass Wall. Rondo Community Library and Housing Project, Minneapolis, 2006.
  • Blends and Bridges. Cleveland, Ohio, 2006.
  • Still Life with Words: an International Exhibition. Gallery 308, Minneapolis, 2005.
  • SoundVisionVisionSound III. Nave Gallery, Somerville, MA., 2005.
  • Infinity. Dudley House. Harvard University, 2005.
  • Vispo at Durban Segnini Gallery. Miami, Florida, 2005.
  • Jacket Magazine: Thomas Fink reviews Incessant Seeds by Sheila E. Murphy
  • Interview with Sheila Murphy by Thomas Fink AT E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S
  • Tom Beckett Interviews Sheila E. Murphy at r e a d m e
  • embouchure: a text/score in 10 passages by Sheila Murphy or mIEKAL aND
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