Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Elizabeth Masters launches Lizz Murphy's Six Hundred Dollars

[Text of the launch speech given by Elizabeth Masters to launch Lizz Murphy's Six Hundred Dollars (PressPress, 2010)]

We in Boorowa consider ourselves very fortunate that Lizz Murphy chose to make her home just down the road in Binalong because, more than anyone, we have gained the benefit of Lizz’s talent and her willingness to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for writing. It also means that, while there is always an Irish tinge to Lizz’s works, she has spent much time writing about local and other regional landscapes.

I hadn’t been in Boorowa long when I read about a literary evening, where people could read and share their work. A friend told me: ’We have to go because Lizz Murphy will be there.’ She had just bought a copy of Wee Girls and said it was one of her favourite books ever. And of course, it only took a couple of lines from Lizz and I became a great fan as well. I remember thinking: if only I could write like that. If only I could elicit those smiles, and tears and share my life so eloquently.
It wasn’t long after that that Lizz offered to run a workshop for us here in Boorowa, on creative writing. We had the beginnings of a writers group here at the time. And I believe its subsequent success owed a lot to having Lizz run a professional workshop for us at that early stage. And what fun it was. With bits of coloured paper and lucky dips and sharing words, we all came up with some pretty creative stuff that day. And I still use some of the techniques I learnt from Lizz to get my creative juices flowing when I’m facing a blank page with little inspiration.
Recently Lizz has been running more writing courses here and has been a great inspiration for writers to get together and form another writers group. Lizz says she gets great pleasure from seeing people achieve their goals, whether it’s a new writer beginning to blossom or a more experienced writer getting their work ‘out there’, through performance or publication. Even at this stage of her highly successful career, she can remember what it’s like to take those first tentative steps and to have those first small successes.
Another day that I remember with fondness was Poets in Court which was touring South East NSW and which, as part of that tour, came to the Boorowa Courthouse. Lizz had organised several poets to tour, treating the residents of small towns to their own particular brand of creativity. This was yet another time when Boorowa enjoyed the benefit of having Lizz as a kind and thoughtful neighbour. I think it was at that time that she shared some of her works from Two Lips Went Shopping and Stop Your Cryin. Yet again I had that feeling: why can’t I write like that.
There is no end to Lizz Murphy’s talents. She wrote her first poems when she was about 11, one about her white mouse which made it into the school magazine. She took advantage of every spare moment to write, and when she was commuting by bus to Canberra in the late 80s, found the words flowing. She has  now published 11 books, including six collections of poetry. Her latest are Six Hundred Dollars, Walk the Wildly, Stop Your Cryin and Two Lips Went Shopping.  Her poems have also been published in a wide range of journals and anthologies.
It’s truly a measure of a poet’s success when she has an international following and Lizz certainly has that, with poems translated into Bengali, French, Irish, Polish and Serbian. In 2006 and 2007 she travelled to Kolkata as part of the Australia-India Poetry Exchange. Her talents have been acknowledged with many awards, including the ACT Creative Arts Fellowship for Literature and the Anutech national poetry prize.
And her talent doesn’t stop at writing. She has a background in visual arts and she is currently working on a Poetry as Public Art project for the region which is breaking new ground, something she finds very exciting.
Lizz has also worked in publishing, arts marketing and regional arts development. Not content to create her own literary and artistic works, she continues to commit time and energy to helping others develop their skills. I believe Lizz can take a great deal of credit for inspiring Australian poetry, both through her own work and through professional roles as the inaugural NSW Poetry Development Officer and as development officer for Southern Tablelands Regional Arts. She believes poetry can hit the nail on the head in a way that prose often does not. As she describes it: Poetry can soothe you – or turn you around and skin you raw in the space of a few words or lines.
I find it amazing that this woman, an over-achiever by any standards, says she often has a sense of ‘not achieving enough’. However she does acknowledge that she finds all areas of her work enriching and she allows herself - quote ‘a tiny bit of pride in each’.
I felt very honoured when Lizz asked me to launch her latest book of poetry Six Hundred Dollars. When I read the title poem, I felt an almost physical impact.  So few words, so carefully chosen, which, ‘turned me around and skinned me raw’. Yet again I thought: Oh to be able to write like that.
I won’t attempt to read it to you because nobody can read poetry like Lizz Murphy, particularly her own. So that you don’t have to wait any longer for that treat, it gives me great pleasure to launch Lizz Murphy’s latest in a long line of creative works Six Hundred Dollars.
Elizabeth Masters

Boorowa Courthouse
Sunday 8 August 2010

[Elizabeth Masters is a writer and editor of fiction and non-fiction. She is widely published in newspapers and magazines and has two books: Australia's Government Explained (Watermark Press) and Keeping Family Treasures (National Archives of Australia).]

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