FARGO -- Timothy Iver Murphy, a celebrated poet who wrote of hunting pheasants and doves in the Dakotas with his beloved dogs, died Saturday, June 30, in his Fargo home.
He was 67.
Born in Hibbing, Minn., Murphy grew up in Moorhead, Minn., and attended Yale University where he began to build his reputation as a poet under the tutoring of Robert Penn Warren.
He worked for years with his father in the insurance and estate planning business and also in managing large farm operations in the Dakotas.
His passion was his poetry, much of it about his black Labrador retrievers and hunting birds in North Dakota and South Dakota.
He was published in Gray’s Sporting Journal, Hudson Review and New Criterion and authored several books, including “Set the Ploughshare Deep,” “Very Far North,” “Mortal Stakes and Faint Thunder,” and “Hunter’s Log.”
His poetry rhymes and has regular meter and appeals to regular people more, perhaps, than it does to academics.
But he was known for his poetry in worldly places; as he told a friend, he was better known in Edinburgh, Scotland than in Edinburg, North Dakota.
Murphy returned later in life to the Roman Catholic faith of his childhood and told of being miraculously saved from suicide.
Murphy often referred to his faith in his poetry and to his previous battles with the bottle.
In 2012, Lance Nixon of the Pierre Capital Journal wrote about Murphy’s talk in Pierre.
“Murphy told us this great yarn about Robert Penn Warren offering instruction over glasses of whiskey – glass for the teacher, glass for the pupil – while he critiqued Murphy’s poems.
‘He said, ‘These are good, boy. My only complaint is that the first line has to grab you by the throat and say ‘Poetry’ the way this glass grabs you by the throat and says, ‘Jack Daniel’s.’’
Well, some of Murphy’s lines do that, but not always the first lines.
Clay Jenkinson of the Dakota Institute Press in Washburn, N.D., published Murphy’s poetry and hunted with him.
Murphy was not like most poets, Jenkinson wrote in the forward to one of Murphy’s books.
“He’s owned large acreages and made and lost fortunes in farming and served as a director for a hog confinement factory . . . He’s a political conservative. He doesn’t wear his politics on his sleeve, but he’s not a literary department poetical Marxist, that’s for sure . . . He’s one of us. He writes about farming, hunting, the land and the sky, dogs, cattle, shotgun shells, and his recipe for pheasant stew. His poetry is not impossibly abstract or elusive. In fact, it is disarmingly accessible, which may make some think it is less sophisticated and accomplished than it is. He likes the idea that his books might appear in Scheels or Cabela’s stores. “
His survivors include his mother, Katherine Bye Murphy of Fargo and five siblings.
His funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, July 3, in Saints Anne and Joachim Catholic Church, 5202 25th St. S., Fargo.