Joan Murray was born in New York City and lives in upstate New York. She is the author of several collections of poetry. Praising Dancing on the Edge (2002), a reviewer for The Times (London) noted, “Her simple lyric tone unteases the complexities of the images which move her.” Working in free verse, Murray is a master of the single, unforgettable detail. Her accessible, image-driven narratives harness the urgency of their moral or social context while staying true to the pacing and music of daily life.
Murray’s first collection, The Same Water (1990), was selected for the Wesleyan New Poets Series. Queen of the Mist (1999), a novel-in-verse about Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, was a runner-up for the Poetry Society of America’s di Castagnola Award, and Murray later co-produced (with filmmaker Rohesia Hamilton Metcalfe) a video of the same title based on her poems. Looking for the Parade (1999) was chosen for the National Poetry Series by Robert Bly.
Murray has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and Yaddo. She was poet-in-residence at the New York State Writers Institute at SUNY Albany, and has received three writer-in-residence grants from the New York State Council for the Arts. She has won a Pushcart Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s Gordon Barber Award.
Murray is editor of the anthologies Pushcart Book of Poetry: The Best Poems from 30 Years of the Pushcart Prize (2007), Poems to Live By in Troubling Times (2006), and Poems to Live By in Uncertain Times (2001). Of the role poetry can play in times of challenge, Murray stated, in a 2002 Bloomsbury Review interview, “Sometimes [poetry] holds your hand to the fire—but, even so, it holds your hand.”