The Story of My Book: Abby E. Murray

Published periodically, “The Story of My Book” posts bring our collections to life through a series of five questions we ask all of our poets that highlight what makes every book unique and why Perugia is the right home for each of them (and may be for you and your book too).

Abby E. Murray on Hail and Farewell (Perugia Press, 2019)

1. What was the genesis of your Perugia book?

Hail and Farewell is a collection I began writing during my husband’s third combat tour in Afghanistan. I’d written a couple chapbooks about how we balance marriage between a pacifist and a soldier, but something burst at the beginning of his third tour—probably my simultaneous struggle with infertility and eventual motherhood—and I was writing constantly. While he was deployed, I moved to NY to start my PhD, and this manuscript is a (very, very) slimmed-down version of my dissertation.

2. How did you find out about Perugia Press?

I was searching for presses that had a particular focus on promoting women’s books, preferably their early manuscripts. I thought my perspective as a loving spouse but reluctant army wife was one that could be handled best by a press with women’s voices in mind. I think I found Perugia via the Poets & Writers website but can’t quite recall. I also sustained a massive head injury between submitting and acceptance, so that whole year is foggy.

3. Describe an experience that confirmed Perugia Press was a good fit for you?

Jesus, the first thing that comes to mind is Becky’s grace in helping me edit, even while I was recovering from that injury; I was in a cast too and could barely type. I don’t think I would have been able to bring this book completely through the editing process on my own, without an editor of her caliber. Also, when I met my Perugia sisters shortly after acceptance, at AWP: their poems, kindness, brilliance, and fierceness knocked me on my ass.

4. How have you changed as a poet, writer, or creative person since your book came out?

It’s hard to know what specifically has changed me—publication, a renewed effort to confront my role in a White supremacist society, or the tumult of a pandemic, which hit shortly after the book was released. I am writing more and submitting less, engaging with my community through workshops, personal conversations, and events that can be facilitated remotely. I have clung to the reminder that poetry is always available—in a protest, in prison, in a pandemic, in grief, in an empty room, without paper, without internet, you name it. Poetry is always available. I am reminding myself and anyone around me that we survive by creating, more than ever before.

5. Other than poetry, what moves and motivates you?

I need to feed people. That became even more important to me in 2020; my mom is very active with food banks and taught me to watch people’s plates. Cooking and baking are ways to manage my anxiety and keep me connected to people through the essential act of eating. Teaching workshops online made me realize that I don’t remember the last time I taught in the community without baking something for the group. Lemon shortbread, lavender cake, chocolate mints, oatmeal bars, pumpkin cookies, truffles. Everything is better with food.

Abby’s lemon-lavender cake
Abby’s red velvet cake
Abby’s rosemary-garlic bread