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Segue 10: Fall 2011  ||  Rich Murphy


about the author


Rich Murphy’s credits include the 2008 Gival Press Poetry Award for Voyeur; a first book, The Apple in the Monkey Tree; chapbooks, Great Grandfather, Family Secret, Hunting and Pecking, Rescue Lines, and Phoems for Mobile Vices; poems in Rolling Stone, Poetry, Grand Street, Trespass, New Letters, Pank, Segue, Big Bridge, Pemmican, War, Literature and the Arts, and Confrontation; and essays in The International Journal of the Humanities, Fringe, Journal of Ecocriticism, Folly Magazine, among others. Rich lives in Marblehead, MA.


about the work


The Nietzschean idea of the mind of Europe led Paul Valery in 1919 to psychoanalyze the collective mind of Europe in his essay “Crisis of the Mind.” He blames the ‘disorder on the mind’ of Europe for the war(s), suggesting that it would bring down the European civilization. His diagnosis included “[t]he free coexistence, in all her cultivated minds, of the most dissimilar ideas, the most contradictory principles of life and learning. That is characteristic of a modern epoch” (98). With the war to end all wars past and WWII just down the road, our hindsight suggests his letter prescient.

Later in 1929 Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents would suggest that the mind of Europe has a very extensive memory when he suggests that Rome is a kind of palimpsest: “Let us, by flight of imagination, suppose that Rome is … a psychical entity with a similarly long and copious past—and entity, that is to say, in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all the earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the latest one” (44).

Taken from different position the idea of the mind of Europe not only had deep historical roots going back to ancient Greece but its influence was felt in its European colonies whether the colonialists liked it or not. Critics such as Northrop Frye took issue with the idea of an original American literature. He granted the possibility of originality while also pointing out similarities in writers such as Homer. And Hart Crane may have been trying to build a Brooklyn Bridge to Europe and back but never could lay the foundation of the work. So while W.C. Williams was throwing a tub of English connotations out on a Saturday night in America, other North American writers and thinkers thought there may be a baby in the bath water.

The Nietzschean idea of the mind of Europe may then possibly have broad implications and applications. My recent poems (these included) are meant to belong to one of two collections in which I channel voices from the 20th Century in Europe and the USA; reply to “contradictions,” influences, and other “psychical entit[ies];” and comment on affinities as an American poet who thinks of himself as living in a postmodern epoch, free from inferiority complexes. I may find that my next collections of poems are not bridges to Europe but a search in the backyard for a baby.

Freud, Sigmond. Civilization and Its Discontents. Trans. James Strachey. W.W. Norton & Co., New York, New York: 2005.

Valery, Paul. “The Crisis of the Mind,” Paul Valery: An Anthology. Ed. James R Lawler, Bollingen Series XLV.A Princeton: Princeton U Press, 1977.


Rich Murphy on the Web






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