ASU poet’s new collection a ‘love story for the desert’

Reflecting on her life’s journey as a writer — from having her mother create story books for her at a young age to being on the threshold of having her second book of poems published — Arizona State University’s Patricia Colleen Murphy sees one vital thread: bookworms.

“I have always been surrounded by bookworms and came from a very bookie family,” Murphy said. “From a very early age I was encouraged to be creative and write.”

Recently, all the time she’s invested in her craft has paid off. Murphy won the 2016 May Swenson Poetry Award. Winning this award resulted in the publication of her first poetry collection, “Hemming Flames.”

This year she won the 2019 Press 53 Award for Poetry, resulting in the publication of her second collection, “Bully Love.”

“'Bully Love' is really a love story for the desert,” Murphy said.

As an Ohio girl, Murphy didn’t always love the desert. When she moved to Arizona, everything at first seemed different and dangerous to her.

“It took me a while, but I started to learn to love the desert,” she said.

At the same time, she was also falling in love with something else.

“My partner is someone who always loved the outdoors,” Murphy said. “From a very young age he had loved hiking and being outside. And that relationship really took me into the desert, it took me into wilderness areas. I fell in love with him as I fell in love with the landscape.”

As Murphy spent more time in the desert, she started to pay more attention to how it was being treated. Her contradicting title, “Bully Love,” is rooted in how people are using the desert resources without thinking about them.

“The poem that carries the title ‘Bully Love’ is really about the commodification of the desert and the tourist industry in Arizona,” she said. “Because as I started to visit wilderness areas and understand more about the precious ecosystem that we live in, I became a lot more critical of the ways that people are using the desert.”

Murphy spent plenty of time observing and reflecting on her thoughts, as she spent more than 20 years composing the poems that have made up her most recent collection. Along the way, she published her writing in many of the top national literary magazines (28 of the poems in “Bully Love” first appeared in 24 different publications). She was also funded for working stints at several artist retreats.

While she doesn’t think her two published books will lead to fame and fortune, she does get a satisfaction out of the accomplishment.

“It’s not necessarily that we think we’re going to get immediate notoriety or people will be knocking down our door to publish more work,” Murphy said, “But I think it’s a way to know that you’re doing something right and that your work is being appreciated.”

Video of How to Become a Published Poet

Video by Kynan Marlin and Sophia Molinar, ASU

When Murphy isn’t writing her own poems or trying to get her work published, she’s helping her own students do the same.

Since earning her MFA at ASU, Murphy has been teaching and passing down her wisdom for 26 years at the university, where she’s a principal lecturer in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at ASU’s Polytechnic campus and also founder of ASU’s student-produced literary journal, Superstition Review.

“I’m kind of a perpetual student,” Murphy said, laughing. “And being a professor is a way to be in the classroom for the rest of your life really. I also just really enjoy working with students, and my students bring me such great joy.”

Below is the final of the 67 poems featured in “Bully Love”:


is already unraveling like the loose
thread the cat bats. I thought I could
plan the next forty years based on my
forty years’ experience. Why is living
still so problematic? The days slip
away as quickly as memories
of a person who was like me.
Now I am stuck re-learning
that all pain is public. I want to listen
to it over the phone so it sounds skinny.
I want it to be the dentist whose sleeve
brushes the curve of my cheekbone.
I don’t want to hate it as much as I do.
I need to tell you that last thing I said
was insincere.

Written by Kynan Marlin, student marketing assistant, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and sports journalism major, ASU Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

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