George Murray on turning digital distraction into poetic inspiration

George Murray is the poet laureate of St. John's. He's published seven books of poetry and a children's book.
George Murray has written seven books of poetry. His latest, fittingly titled Diversion, is a commentary on the digital age.

George Murray is the poet laureate of St. John's. He's published seven books of poetry and a children's book. His new book, Diversion, uses poetic fragments and aphorisms to convey a modern world filled with overstimulation and digital noise. This interview originally aired on November 9, 2015.

What I found is that I was writing less and less poetry over time and I started to wonder why. Then I realized every moment was taken up with some sort of media. If you go into a bar, there are five TVs with five different sports games. You go into a cafe and there's music playing and advertisements on the radio. Somebody's tweeted about you. Somebody else on Facebook says you have to see this cat video. Somebody else is texting you. Everywhere I go it's "bzz bzz bzz" or "ding ding ding!" I never had this space that Wordsworth called emotion recollected and tranquility — that moment of going away with a thought and spending some time on it and writing a poem. I didn't have that anymore. I was taking lots of notes, but they were fragmented and in a disarray.

I thought, "Wait a minute, what if there's a poetry in this?" So I just spent a year letting the cacophony and multiple channels coming in. That's how I came up with Diversion. Each poem is 41 lines long, each line is a complete unit, like a statement. The book flip-flops back and forth between really angry about the world and sort of being awestruck about the world. I think we've come into a time where we're losing the line between what is profound and what is mundane. It's harder to distinguish between the two because of the information glut that we have.

George Murray's comments have been edited and condensed.