We first met Abby Murray in 2010, when we profiled her newly created Writers Reading series. The event has since moved locations several times, but later in the summer will undergo a bigger change: Murray will leave Colorado Springs to get her doctorate at Binghamton University in New York, and turn the now every-other-month event over to a fellow instructor at Pikes Peak Community College.
"I’m really just going because I feel like, even though I finished my MFA, I’m not quite done having people tell me what to read, I guess," says the tattooed and pierced literary professor. "I just don’t feel like I’m done."
A frequent mover due to her husband's military service, Murray's a published poet who has lived in Seattle, Alaska, Vancouver, Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio. Then she moved here and started the series where anybody can sign up to read their written work before an audience (with a featured author capping each event).
Still, it was no small task. Actually ...
"It was [like] pushing a boulder uphill — like, I got a lot of resistance. I don’t really want to name names, because I feel like I’m still a little bit bitter about it," she says hotly. "So I don’t want to name names, but I did get a lot of people saying they didn’t want to help me; a lot of people saying it would be waste of time; a lot of people saying that I could spend my time more efficiently elsewhere; and a lot of people who just didn’t return my calls, and then who later I heard, once I became more active in the literary scene, heard about them talking about how important community is to them. And I was like, 'Really ...'"
In a wide-ranging interview held last week at Montague's, Murray talked about teaching, the future for local poets, the environment for aspiring authors, and what it means (and doesn't) to be an Army wife.
ON THE FUTURE OF LOCAL POETRY: "It seems like more people are gradually becoming interested. ... Yeah, I think people are starting to get more interested in it; I think it’s coming out of the slump of, ‘Why would I study that? It’s not gonna get me a job.’ And people are just now starting to realize ‘OK, I have a job, but I’m not happy.’"
ON HER FAVORITE FEATURED AUTHOR: "What’s cool about the series is that literally every reading, I’m always so nervous; I feel like I’m gonna throw up beforehand, and every time I leave I’m like, ‘That reading was better than last month.’ But, at the same time, I hate those PC, bullshit answers that don’t answer the question, so I think Kitty Jospe was out here in March of this year. She flew out from Rochester.
"It still amazes me I’m paying these people in [homemade] jam; and I’ve had people fly in from Boston, Rochester.
"And she was here and I feel like she got the most warm response from the audience. People really felt like they connected to her poetry."
ON THE SPRINGS' LITERARY SCENE: "I don’t get the impression that authors are helping each other very much in Colorado Springs. I feel like everybody’s more or less in it for themselves — and you kind of have to be. It’s become really cutthroat, and it’s become really, ‘I want my five minutes in the sun.’ To me it was very hard to get started here, because I really wanted a reading series where people were just nice to each other — play nice, like, I just want people to play fucking nice."
ON THE POETRY WEST ORGANIZATION: "They’ve been the most helpful in terms of the poetry scene. In terms of Colorado Springs, they had every reason to not be helpful to me — I don’t write like they do, I’m younger than they are — and they have been nothing but welcoming. They read in the open mic, they publish in their newsletter the upcoming readings; they’re always available when I e-mail them."
ON LOCAL CREATIVE MOTIVATION: "What’s weird here, and I think it has something to do with the environmental beauty that we’re living in in this town: it’s really difficult to live here and not have some good ideas for writing. It’s really difficult to live here and be immune to kick-ass stories and really good poetry. You know, we can kind of observe the country and what it’s doing from its center, so I think there are people here who just have top-notch, brilliant ideas.
"The problem, I think — according to me, a 29-year-old, I-don’t-have-any-right-to-prescribe-my-opinion-anyway — but according to me, there’s a lack of ambition here. I think people have really great ideas — nobody wants to lead. Nobody wants to do work, I guess, or talk to each other."
ON BEING A MILITARY SPOUSE: "I’m not really an active part in the whole Army-wife scene, mostly because I really don’t know how to go about it. It’s another culture. It’s really another lifestyle. It’s really weird, because in some ways it’s incredibly limited. Like, you’re allowed — just a warning: I’m being an asshole here, and I know it — you’re allowed to have certain personality traits. There’s, like, a certain line that you’re not allowed to cross as an Army wife."
ON HER NEW BOOK: "But that said, I think there are a lot of poems in the book that speak to a lot of what wives are going through, and not just me. The feeling like — it is really something else to wonder if your spouse is dead, like, every day when you wake up. Like, you know, ‘Haven’t talked to him in 12 hours, I wonder if something happened.’ And, like, every time you turn onto your street wondering if there’s gonna be a Dodge Durango parked in front of your house. So I think the poems aren’t just for, like, liberal, anti-Army-wife types. I think it kind of speaks to everybody.
"At least I hope it does."