Nina Murray (Poetry, Translation) | Arlington, VA
Nina Murray was born and raised in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. An American poet and translator, she is the author of two books of poetry, Alcestis in the Underworld (Circling Rivers, 2019) and Minimize Considered (Finishing Line Press, 2018), and the translator of Oksana Zabuzhko’s Museum of Abandoned Secrets (Amazon Crossing, 2013), and Peter Aleshkovsky’s Fish: A History of One Migration (Russian Life Books, 2010) and Stargorod (Russian Life Books, 2013). She holds advanced degrees in linguistics and creative writing and regularly publishes original poetry, book reviews, and translations.
Blurbs, Press, & Reviews
Reading Nina Murray’s work is, in some ineffable way, like turning the pages of your own life. It leaves you in greater harmony with the world and more deeply in touch with its infinite possibilities. The keen pangs of recognition are tempered by the quiet, elegiac sadness of acceptance. Beautiful writing, a singular book of poems, rendered in precise, crisp language yet, marvellously, managing to produce a powerful visceral, vivid, heart-bound, near-inarticulable impression.
—Mikhail Iossel, Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing, Concordia University
These poems by Nina Murray draw on her experience as an officer of the U.S. Department of State and to a large degree are set in cities where she has worked or studied. Whether it be Toronto, Washington, D.C., or Lincoln, Nebraska, the poems are acutely aware of place; some portray the impersonality of the modern urban landscape. But the poet’s eye often picks out, primarily from nature, sharply observed exceptions to the rule. For example, in “August,” the collection’s opening poem, she considers the spiders which have adapted to life on the façade of a high-rise building: “anchored in the joint of brushed steel/the height doesn’t bother them/the wind/seventeen floors above the street/fawns over them/feeds small flies into their web/an occasional disoriented wasp/it is a life…’ Similarly, the poem goes on to say, “we inhabit/this city’s crevices…”
The poems can be divided into three distinct categories of subject matter: those dealing with nature, those dealing with aspects of the foreign service, and those somewhat more static pieces that focus on a general theme. They are written in free verse, the lines at times very wide, occasionally modulating into a sort of loose blank verse, as in this description of Marines tussling with a lowered flag in the wind:
He saw their hands, sharp in the umber light, beating down on the stripes, the silk alive, bucking them off, the billows of it high above their heads…
And in “June,” perhaps the best of the nature poems, the opening line, “a circus of rain,” is elaborated in the two lines at the end: “The pavement— dappled mirror—/returns my gaze as winks.” The poem’s images are thus enclosed by a complex, developing metaphor–a subtle turn on the tradition of circular form.
These poems—this poet—bear the unmistakable stamp of the real thing.
—Roy Scheele, author of The Sledders
The Museum of Abandoned Secrets
Spanning sixty tumultuous years of Ukrainian history, this multigenerational saga weaves a dramatic and intricate web of love, sex, friendship, and death. At its center: three women linked by the abandoned secrets of the past—secrets that refuse to remain hidden.
While researching a story, journalist Daryna unearths a worn photograph of Olena Dovgan, a member of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army killed in 1947 by Stalin’s secret police. Intrigued, Daryna sets out to make a documentary about the extraordinary woman—and unwittingly opens a door to the past that will change the course of the future. For even as she delves into the secrets of Olena’s life, Daryna grapples with the suspicious death of a painter who just may be the latest victim of a corrupt political power play.
From the dim days of World War II to the eve of Orange Revolution, The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is an “epic of enlightening force” that explores the enduring power of the dead over the living.
The translator has admirably rendered the individual voices and the skaz technique into English…. I would recommend this book to all specialists in Russian culture interested in contemporary literature. In addition, because the stories stand on their own, it would be easy to select excerpts for a class. It would also appeal to general audiences, especially if they are willing to delve into a long novel that creates interrelated chronotopes through stories, rather than advancing a unified plot.
—Kirsten Lodge, SEEJ Journal