Bill Murray, a lifelong lover of poetry, has been a strong supporter of New York City’s Poets House for more than 20 years and continues to spread his admiration for the art in numerous different scenarios.
Despite having received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humour following a number of consistently impressive comedic performances, Murray has honed his style in numerous genres of cinema over the years which has led to critical acclaim in a series of different projects.
While his on-screen persona has won over the hearts of millions, it is Murray’s off-screen down-to-earth personality which has endeared him to a wider audience – which includes turning up unannounced to read some poetry to members of the public.
Murray, whose random stories of appearing in unusual places around the world have earned cult status, joined members of a construction team who built Poets House’s new home in 2009 for the first poetry reading.
Fittingly, Murray chose to read Poet’s work by Lorine Niedecker while donning his white hard hat:
Most recently Murray appeared at SXSW festival as part of the promotional campaign for Wes Anderson’s animated film Isle of Dogs and read some poetry as part of the event:
A few years ago, as part of a celebration for National Poetry Month, Oprah asked Murray to name a selection of what he would consider some of his favourite poems.
Murray was asked prior to an arranged interview to name the selected poetry, instead invited a select few journalists to a room in the Carlyle hotel in Manhattan for a reading of his chosen work.
Here is Murray’s selected poetry:
1. ‘From ‘Famous’, by Naomi Shihab Nye
When speaking to Oprah, Murray said: “It’s not the dream of being big, it’s the dream of being real. That’s what stands out to me.”
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so…
I want to be famous in the way
a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did
but because it never forgot
what it could do.
2. ‘What the Mirror Said’, by Lucille Clifton
Commenting on the poem, Murray said: “Everybody needs an ‘Attagirl!’ now and then.”
'What the Mirror Said'
you a wonder.
you a city
of a woman.
you got a geography
of your own.
somebody need a map
to understand you.
to move around you.
you not a noplace
mister with his hands
he got his hands on
3. ‘Oatmeal’, by Galway Kinnell
I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone…
Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary companion.
Nevertheless, yesterday morning I ate my oatmeal with John Keats.
Keats said I was right to invite him: due to its glutinous texture, gluey lumpishness, hint of slime, and unusual willingness to disintegrate, oatmeal must never be eaten alone.
He said it is perfectly OK, however, to eat it with an imaginary companion.
4. ‘I Love You Sweetheart’, by Thomas Lux
“This poem vibrates the insides of my ribs, Murray said before adding “where the meat is most tender.”
'I Love You Sweetheart'
She will know I love her now,
the world will know
my love for her! A man risked his life to
write the words.
Love is like this at the
bone, we hope, love
is like this, Sweatheart,
all sore and dumb
Finally, as part of a reading at a benefit for Poets House in New York City Murray chose to read from Lucille Clifton’s ‘What the Mirror Said’: