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Cover of Bully Love by Patricia Colleen Murphy
April 2019
Press 53

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Bully Love

Patricia Colleen Murphy

*Winner of the 2019 Press 53 Award for Poetry.* Patricia Colleen Murphy’s award-winning second book, "Bully Love," follows the poet from Ohio to Arizona, from cows and cornfields to the Sonoran Desert, from youth to middle age, from daughter to orphan, from child to childfree, from loneliness to love. As the poet leaves a broken home to build a new life for herself, she struggles to adapt to a land teeming with dangers. Against a searing sunny backdrop, the poems describe how she makes peace with an inhospitable life and landscape as she overcomes hardships such as madness, death, depression, fear, anger, loneliness, heat and hills.

She ultimately finds beauty in the desert Edward Abbey called “not the most suitable of environments for human habitation.” The poems in "Bully Love" examine the long-term effects of displacement: a mother displaced from her home by mental illness, a woman displaced from the Midwest to the Southwest, a Girl Scout camp displaced by a Uranium processing plant, desert wildlife displaced by urban sprawl and mining, wilderness displaced by careless tourists, ranches displaced by freeways, solitude displaced by companionship, fear displaced by joy. The collection examines how humans form relationships with both landscapes and lovers, all through the eyes of a woman who leaves a forlorn home, suffers relentless loss and falls in love in and with one of the world’s harshest ecosystems.


Patricia Colleen Murphy is a principal lecturer at Arizona State University, where she founded the literary magazine Superstition Review. She is also an alumna of the Department of English's creative writing program, having graduated with her Master of Fine Arts in 1996.

Praise for this book

"The austerity of the desert is almost a character in 'Bully Love,' almost a beloved. In leaving the Midwest, a mother’s madness, a family’s dissolution, the poet travels west mythically and actually. 'It is easy to be pious when/your life is not on fire' simultaneously invokes human suffering and suggests that faith of any kind—in love or place or God—cannot be gained without it. For some, a desert is a place of baptism: the difficulty of existence clarifies its worth. You don’t need to think of the desert as a place to be reborn—Patricia Murphy has done that for you."

Bob Hicok
Author of "Hold"

"In this quietly fierce collection of poems, the dynamic between profound longing and clear-eyed testament is palpable everywhere. 'And so I will live the rest of my life / just short of rapture,' suggests one line, but the whole collection is mapped in that instant. Bridging a young view of Ohio with an older eye toward Arizona, these poems search for, if not understanding, redemptive acceptance."

Alberto Ríos
Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and Arizona Poet Laureate