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Hemming Flames

4.72  ·  Rating details ·  69 ratings  ·  27 reviews
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-s
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published July 15th 2016 by Utah State University Press
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Marylee MacDonald
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
These poems don't take long to read. They take time to absorb. The poems' narrator pulls back the curtain on a family bludgeoned by a mother's addiction and mental illness. Self-pity doesn't come into it--just excruciatingly precise observation. In "Cutlass Ciera" Mom has pulled to the side of the road to immolate herself. Like hammer blows, these lines bring the suicide vividly into focus: "Where you watered/yourself like a little/daffodil--splash, splash, splash/across your roots."
Patty Paine
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is actually a re-read. So good I had to read it twice!
David Klose
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am really picky when it comes to poetry. When I say the names of poets I like, I think of Bob Hicok, Stephen Dobyns, Dorianne Laux, Josh Rathkamp. It's that short of a list. Now I need to add Patricia Colleen Murphy to that list.

The collection deals a lot with the poet's relationship with a very troubled parent. It hit home in a lot of ways. Mental illness is not portrayed enough in its truest form. In Hemming Flames it's given the credit it is due.

Lastly, I enjoy this style of poetry. The l
Matthew Gavin Frank
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Murphy's poems blew my doors off. This is heartbreaking, strange, beautiful, essential work. Finally, the nightmarish is allowed to waltz with the incantatory, and it's all I could do to bask in their whirling, my mouth agape, filled with the roar of their footlights.
Ting Gou
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
With this collection of poems, Patricia Murphy follows the effects of mental illness on a family over the course of decades. Often with short and biting declarations, the narrator skillfully walks the line between commentary and introspection, as seen in “Cutlass Ciera.” Confronting the memory of her mother’s suicide-attempt-by-burning with a series of swift statements, including the lines “I bet that day started with / a gas can,” the narrator transitions seamlessly into the revelation, “I’ve n ...more
Jen Knox
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The poems in Patricia Colleen Murphy's Hemming Flames shook me. One by one, they informed and entertained. More, they reminded me of my own confusions, insecurities, regrets, and growth. They examined the complexities of family dynamics that can never be fully understood, only felt across time and experience.

These poems go deep, they re-angle light. The narrative styles vary, but these poems share one thing: precision. It is Murphy's ability to see my rapid-paced, over-worked, easily
Claire Polders
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
"Hemming Flames" is more than an impressive collection of poems; it’s a lyrical narrative, a devastating family portrait in which no one is innocent yet some are more to blame than others. Patricia Colleen Murphy doesn’t shy away from any subject, making this collection raw and truthful. The narrator, if you can call it such in poetry, talks to us from inside the most terrible moments yet also from outside, reflectively, looking back. And she responds to these moments both physically and emotion ...more
Faye Rapoport DesPres
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am writing this review while the images from this beautifully written book are still swimming in my mind. Patricia Colleen Murphy is an extraordinary poet. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading a memoir, because I found myself getting lost in the painful images of a tortured childhood in a troubled suburban family and wanting to pull the author out. I will have to read the poems again numerous times to feel that I more deeply understand them, because they are so layered and imaginati ...more
Jade Lougee
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Patricia Murphy bares her soul with poetry that can only be described as splinter-pulling memoir. Without inciting pity or seeming to pander to conjure false emotion from her audience, Murphy speaks plainly about a childhood that shouldn’t have happened to anyone. She offers herself up as a sacrifice to the reader, and she does so with no apologies. Her words are succinct and far from artifice – layman’s words spun into a fantastically complex form. She is mesmerizing in her seeming simplicity – ...more
Jeredith Merrin
Aug 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hemming Flames is hard to talk about, harrowing. It aims at truth-telling: on all that familial darkness, let there be light. There's a voice here that is strenuously direct, arresting. And in this book about biological family, poetic family also makes its appearance. Anne Sexton shows up, who would, I think, “get” this project; Elizabeth Bishop shows up, who would not. And even T.S. Eliot: “What a prig.”
There are many, many lines in this collection that hit hard, and stick: "I'm not afrai
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hemming Flames is a look into a life growing up with a family member with mental illness, depression, addiction. These poems are not at all easy to read, witnessing the pain and anger emanating through each word, but with each poem brings a new way of thinking about mental illness and the lives affected by it. This is a must read for anyone looking for a genuine, and honest look into a dark and complex world of survival.
C. Varn
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a intense collection: family mental illness, travel, self-conception break down, and grief abandon it. Yet, this little dark gem of a book is more about survival and anger than victimhood. It's often strange and arresting, unflinching, and yet there is a core of relatable humanity in Murphy's poems. Highly recommended.
H. Rae Monk
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A book of raw emotion, morbid humor, the flaws we find in ourselves and our families and learning to deal with the death of parents as an adult. I laughed, I cried, I gasped at the horrible familiarity. Full of the relatable details of dealing with grief and families with dark sides. I couldn't put it down!
Izzy Montoya
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Murphy explores familial relationships with unrelenting honesty. These poems open up a dialogue which many prefer to sweep under the rug, yet they are also beautifully crafted. The notion that one can create something out of fire comes to life in these poems. A great read.
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There are so many poems (and individual lines) in this collection that knock you back with their craft and clarity and wrenching honesty. Among my favorites: "My Brother, Hoarding"; "My Armamentarium"; "Scrotum and Bone"; "Memory as Diary"; "On Being Born."
Jason Wright
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“Hemming Flames” is a ballet through the flames of angst and disgust. It reaches out to those who have dealt with mental illness in an animalistic family, and offers no gentle hand, but an inspiringly raw fist. I plan on reading it many more times over!
L.S. Popovich
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A devastating collection of poems dealing with tough topics in a way that leaves a memorable impression, written by a contemporary poet unafraid to openly discuss humanity's deepest fears.

You would be hard-pressed to find a better debut collection published in recent years. The last lines of the book deliver on what the rest of the collection promises - that there is symbolic relationship between the images and interconnected stories - beyond lyrical intensity - clasped within the sl
Maureen Alsop
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Threaded in ash and spun aware. Hemming Flames’ poems are a series of needles stitching the reader, without pity, into childhood’s singed edges. An embroidery of addiction, violence, neglect. As if memory can scald the body’s interior, these poems are written not from urgency but acute clarity, fierce in their pressure, tightly binding past injuries without sedation. Read full review here:

Threaded in ash and spun aware. Hemming Flames’ poems are a series of needles stitching the reader, without pity, into childhood’s singed edges. An embroidery of addiction, violence, neglect. As if memory can scald the body’s interior, these poems are written not from urgency but acute clarity, fierce in their pressure, tightly binding past injuries without sedation. Read full review here:
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful melding of tragic brutality and abrupt humor in this collection of poems, focusing on the ways that mental illnesses can completely dismantle a family. Raw, but not in a way that denies each poem an interesting formal structure.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are lines in this book which make you want to rip your heart out. This book is about anger and vulnerability and family and survival. The poems stay with you - I keep changing my mind about which one I love most, giving me the pleasure of reading them all again and again.
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing collection, which I reviewed for the Quarterly Conversation
I highly recommend it for its visceral, always crafted, taut handling of the highly flammable material it shapes so brilliantly.
Darrin Doyle
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Hemming Flames is unflinching, bold, grim, and beautiful. Poems that vibrate with a kind of electrical charge, language and subject fusing in ways that deeply unsettle and mystify. There is anger, aggression, and an emotion that would be called sadness if it were not so complex and un-self-pitying. A mother with severe mental illness, in and out of institutions, negligent, destructive, chronically suicidal. A sexually abusive brother grown morbidly obese and agoraphobic. A father who is abs ...more
Jacob Appel
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Patricia Colleen Murphy's "Hemming Flames" is an insightful and unsettling debut collection, intensely personal, yet touched with underlying truths that transcend its particular sufferings. Stephen Dunn rightly hails the work, but his mention in the introduction of the volume's "Plathian relentlessness," might lead one to expect some of Plath's opacity, while what I love about this collection is its cogent lyricism -- a lucidity and universality that seems more Philip Larkin than confessional, a ...more
Nicole Lemme
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Hemming Flames" was a difficult read because of the subject matter, but excellently written. It manages to be simultaneously strong and delicate, conveying an immense variety of emotions and the poet's personal experiences. I admittedly had to take breaks throughout the book due to its weightiness but all in all a terrific work. Highly recommend!!
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Although the subject matter was heavy, this was the perfect book to read when I couldn't sleep one night; I couldn't put it down! The poems were raw, unique, and diverse, offering a variety of tones and styles. I highly recommend it.
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Aug 11, 2016
Amiee Mestaz
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Jun 30, 2018
Sara Scoville
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May 16, 2017
Tim Tufford
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Two reasons why you need to read this book:
1. Patricia Colleen Murphy knows how to set the mood. The poems in this collection are dark, funny, hopeful, self-deprecating and uplifting – sometimes all at once. Not only does this give Hemming Flames tonal variety, it gives us, as readers, a greater insight into the author's psyche. By the time you finish reading this book, you'll feel like you know her. It's extremely difficult to write figuratively while also managing to be unguarded and frank, bu
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Dec 13, 2016
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Patricia Colleen Murphy founded Superstition Review at Arizona State University, where she teaches creative writing and magazine production. She won the 2019 Press 53 Poetry Award with her collection Bully Love. She won the 2016 May Swenson Poetry Award judged by Stephen Dunn, and her poetry collection Hemming Flames was published by University Press of Colorado in summer 2016. Her writing has appeared in many literary ...more
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