Volume 19 of the May Swenson Poetry Award Series, 2016
Throughout this haunting first collection, Patricia Colleen Murphy shows how familial mental illness, addiction, and grief can render even the most courageous person helpless. With depth of feeling, clarity of voice, and artful conflation of surrealist image and experience, she delivers vivid descriptions of soul-shaking events with objective narration, creating psychological portraits contained in sharp, bright language and image. With Plathian relentlessness, Hemming Flames explores the deepest reaches of family dysfunction through highly imaginative language and lines that carry even more emotional weight because they surprise and delight. In landscapes as varied as an Ohio back road, a Russian mental institution, a Korean national landmark, and the summit of Kilimanjaro, each poem sews a new stitch on the dark tapestry of a disturbed suburban family’s world.
The May Swenson Poetry Award is an annual competition named for May Swenson, one of America’s most provocative and vital writers. During her long career, Swenson was loved and praised by writers from virtually every school of American poetry. She left a legacy of fifty years of writing when she died in 1989. She is buried in her hometown of Logan, Utah.