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The Shaman Speaks

by Joseph Murphy


39 pp


"The Shaman Speaks  collects fourteen of Murphy's poems, each chronicling a different stage or event in the evolution of a shaman. The sequences are haunting, vivid, and dreamlike, filled with images of dissolution, transformation, and rebirth.


You will not find the rational logic of the "real world" in these poems; rather, this is the logic of myth, dream, and the subconscious. Birds, serpents, boats, water, the moon, seeds, and trees appear frequently, representing aspects of not just the narrator/shaman, but also creation as a whole.


As the shaman moves from initiation, through the Work of healing and helping, through death and into rebirth again, the images flow together, part, and flow together again; the shaman's journey mirrors the journey of all creation.


In "The Shaman Speaks," for example "Guardian spirits / carved sun and moon into rib and skull; feathered / my crest with their plumage." In "The Shaman's Craft," Murphy writes "Only a fool would think I lie at your feet / as a flame's bud opens through the stalk of my chest, / seeds fall from my rudder's quill/ and a new moon's tentacles / hone my oars," while in his poem "The Shaman's Dream" : My feet became talons; my scalp / an iron cap. / Wings spread from the cap's well-etched brim; soaring / I rose amid sea-rounded spirits; plumage / changing shade and shape.


As the shaman's own journey comes to a new end/beginning, Murphy writes:  When the craft cradling me reached the horizon, those on shore knew I'd rise; wing / from bark to starry branch. / I pushed my prow beneath whitecaps as the moon / began its chant. / My talons grasped rungs of light; what had bound me shook loose. 


The Shaman Speaks is a luminous story-poem, rich with primal imagery. I lost myself in the cadence of the words, moving from the comfort of my modern air-conditioned house to a fluid, mythical, soulful realm of transformation, one-into-many and many-into-one.


Highly recommended to fans of poets Sara Cleto, Sandi Leibowitz, Mary MacMyne, Sarah Sadie, and Brittany Warman." 


— Rebecca Buchanan, editor, Eternal Haunted Summer



Joseph Murphy has been published in a wide range of print and online journals, including The Ann Arbor Review, Northwind and The Sugar House Review. He is the author of three previous poetry collections, Shoreline of the Heart, Having Lived and Crafting Wings. Murphy is also a member of the Colorado Authors’ League and for eight years (2010–18) was poetry editor for an online literary publication, Halfway Down the Stairs.


Visit his website to learn more about his poetry and read excerpts from each collection:

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