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Sally-Ann Murray PDF Print E-mail

Sally-Ann Murray (1961 - ) was born in Durban. A boy was expected, and her surprised but resourceful parents drew her name from a hat of possibilities. She grew up in a corporation flat in Umbilo and remembers her childhood as one spent 'making things' - poems, puppets, plays, collages, shrines, clothes, box theatres, collections of found objects (some of them dead animals, bottled in formaldehyde!). She was Head Girl at Durban Girls' High, and after matric spent a year on an exchange scholarship in San Francisco. On her return to Durban, she worked for a few years in retail and personnel, and studied through UNISA, before taking up a scholarship at the University of Natal. She has a PhD on 'Magazines, Malls and Theme Parks' from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and lectures in the Programme of English Studies at the same university. She is the winner of the SANLAM Award for poetry in 1991, and the Arthur Nortje/Vita Award in 1989. She considers herself to be a 'Durban' poet, since much of her work tackles the pleasures and problems of writing in the uneven spaces that make up identity in this extensive coastal city. Important claims upon her imagination include the seashore, gardening, local history, femaleness, motherhood, and the little dramas of domestic life. Her poetry also suggests that she is conscious of writing 'as a woman' in a local poetic tradition whose most notable craftsman is Douglas Livingstone.

Murray's first anthology, Shifting, was published in 1992. Many of her poems have also appeared in journals such as EAR, Staffrider, Illuminations and Agenda. Many of her poems have been anthologized in volumes such as The Heart in Exile, Breaking the Silence and Worldscapes. Her work has most recently appeared in The New Century of South African Poetry (2003, Ad Donker Publishers, edited by Michael Chapman) and Imagination in a Troubled Space (published in 2004 by Poetry Salzburg). Open Season was published in 2006. In 2016, Murray's short story 'How to Carry On' was selected as one of the 20 Short.Sharp.Stories for the Incredible Journey anthology.

In 2009, Murray's first novel, Small Moving Parts, was launched in Durban and published by Kwela Books.  Small Moving Parts has since received critical acclaim, receiving two awards in 2010, namely the M-Net Literary Award and the Herman Charles Bosman Prize at the Cape Town Book Fair.  After several years of lecturing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Murray moved to the Western Cape in 2014. She is currently employed as a Professor of English at Stellenbosch University. With regard to Small Moving Parts and what lies ahead, she claims, "“It is my first novel and it won't be my last,”.


Selected Work

Some still lives. South Africa.

A parked car fumbles near Blue Lagoon. Gangboys bash the bonnet, bullet the boy, strip the girl to running tears. She lives, but always through the gap of her escape.

A woman's longtime lover tells her daughter: somebody has to teach you, it may as well be me. Back onto the bed she leans, unable to avoid his leering tongue.

A guy struts streetstuff for his brothers, snipes at chicks as they flicker by. A woman in a downcast headscarf hurries past. Cloaked in their everyday madness, the Cape Flats don't even blink.

A mother slap slap slaps her son with satisfaction. Little shit. Bloody well deserves it, quipped to no-one in particular. Half hopes other shoppers have seen her being so bad.

A couple condomises. Afterwards, he snores. She makes him pay. Extra. Slides a wad from the sleeping trousers, glides past glances in the lobby. It is 3am when the taxi comes.

A dronkie drops questions, ducks the blows. "Fucking pervert," the father yells, "lay off my kids!" Like you have, the eldest smiles, elated at the anger her accusation has aroused.

A wheelbarrow bundles a crumpled figure. The farmer forbids taxis on his land; officialdom demands embodied identity; the son must get his mother to the Vryheid pension queue.

A woman talks of her boy. Flushed from in hiding beneath a car, emasculated, screaming stopped with a petrol-soaked rag. Impimpi? Impossible? She sobs, glazes into remoteness. This truth too is televised.

A Grade 11 learner after class, mouth so sweet that teacher wants to drink her. And does. Years later he fondles this transgression, weak at the undeserving gift of health.

A train passes. For now, it is not theirs.

It pulls past shut shot shuttering shuddering into the fading light.

The stills move too quickly.

Horizontals flickering verticals cutting spliced

together without benefit of reflection.

Men and women watch, transfixed.

Yet they seem sad that the sunset is so happy to flatter them.




1992.  Shifting.  Cape Town: Carrefour Press.

2006.  Open Season.  Durban: Hardpressed.

2009.  Small Moving Parts. Cape Town: Kwela Books.