top of page

Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud

Fox Spirit Cover Final.jpg

Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud

By Lee Murray

Wellington, 1923, and a sixty-year-old woman hangs herself in a scullery; ten years later another woman 'falls' from the second floor of a Taranaki tobacconist; soon afterwards a young mother in Taumarunui slices the throat of her newborn with a cleaver. All are women of the Chinese diaspora, who came to Aotearoa for a new life and suffered isolation and prejudice in silence. Chinese Pakeha writer Lee Murray has taken the nine-tailed fox spirit huli jing as her narrator to inhabit the skulls of these women and others like them and tell their stories. Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud is an audacious blend of biography, mythology, horror and poetry that transcends genre to illuminate lives in the shadowlands of our history.

The Cuba Press / Cover by Kim Lowe

Teaching Notes Available

Winner of the 2023 NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize
Kindly supported by the Grimshaw Sargeson Trust

Praise for Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud

“Reading Lee Murray’s Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud is a full-body experience: your pulse races and your skin prickles in response to the searing and visceral imagery, and the heaviness of the injustices that Murray describes feels like weights wrapped around your ankles.” —New Zealand Poet Laureate Chris Tse for The Spinoff.

What a heart embracing collection this is. Such writing poise. Every line sings out with linguistic freshness, a feast of visual and aural conjunctions: “your heart shrivels to a rotting black walnut, the sweet sonata halts”. Every musical phrase leading to the jagged edge of living: “apples and flutes will always be parallel lines”. Every lyrical cadence twisting the blade: “the girl is a typhoon of want, a perfect symphony of longing”.—Paula Green for The Poetry Shelf

“Transcending the confines of genre, Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud is a work of staggering originality and emotional power. Murray's juxtaposition of biography and mythology, of the human and the supernatural, challenges the reader to confront the silences and the forgotten narratives that haunt our collective consciousness. This is a book that demands to be read, not just for its literary merit,but for its ability to illuminate the marginalised experiences that have long been obscured from our view."—NZ Booklovers

“Murray adeptly fastens a celestial view to an earthbound one with sublime poetry and prose that lights the dim corridors between the past and present, history and myth.” —Angelique Kasmara for the Academy of New Zealand Literature


“Lee Murray’s Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud is historical fantasy, vivid truth in myth, pain and redemption in the mournful song of a literary maestro. Though written to encapsulate the Asian female experience, it transcends to the very depths of suffering, beauty, and life where we all stand irrevocably human, irrevocably one.” —Jamal Hodge, writer, poet, director

“In this luminously transcendent page-turner, Murray proves herself a deftly magical storyteller, one equally adept at rendering savagery and revelation. This daring fusion of archival history, Chinese fantasy, and poetic invention will stun the reader like a divine revelation and haunt them like their own strange and unforgettable dream.” —Yi Izzy Yu, acclaimed author of The Shadow Book of Ji Yun

“Multi-award-winning author Lee Murray conveys a unique way of storytelling with her extraordinary ability to blend heart-wrenching facts with imagination, personal experience, family, and even the nine-tailed fox spirit. Murray’s flawless structuring weaves invisible threads to connect each piece. An important work of prose-poetry that I hope will empower Asian women who have remained quiet to come forward and be seen and heard.” —Cindy O’Quinn, four-time Bram Stoker-nominated writer, and an Elgin, Rhysling, and Dwarf Star-nominated poet.

“This collection masterfully combines prose and poetry to reveal the loneliness, the desperation, and the strength of Asian women through the ages. By peeling back the curtains of multiple lives, Murray not only enables the reader to have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Chinese woman in New Zealand, but the way that Murray weaves each tale draws the reader into the story, so she isn’t simply experiencing a narrative: Murray’s prose enables a greater understanding of what it means to be an Asian woman. Each story layers on top of the previous one, resulting in a stunning work. Five out of five stars in complex, layered, and stellar works.” —Lisa Diane Kastner, author and publisher at Running Wild and RIZE Presses, nominated among Ten Women to Watch in 2021 by New York Weekly.

“Enter the realm of Lee Murray’s collection, Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud, “where mountains are sculpted from dragonfly wings and the sky is smudged with plum petals.” In the shifting light of prose-poetry, a palace is filled with voices as stories materialize into these spacious rooms. Through the húli jīng, a nine-tailed fox spirit and our narrator, Murray binds the intimate with the expansive. This is a place where women, once silenced, arise. Articulated from the experiences of New Zealand’s Chinese diaspora, these connections and visions transcend their origins. An echoing refrain appears of “Some things you knew already. Some things you knew before you were born; they were revealed to you in the rhythm of your mother’s heartbeat and in the echoes of her sighs.” And wave on wave / fading to shallows, the soils we readers carry within us, the readers, are stirred. Where so many women have been told, “Girls have no business with silver dreams,” Murray fashions such expressions of feminine strength, as if…

through the mānuka bushes / a glint on the lake

Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud is a triumph. The collection is an ancestral metaphor illuminating what it means to be a Chinese immigrant and a descendant of the diaspora. It is also a revelation of what it means to be adaptable creators, to be women whose voices are rising today with hope and agility.” —L. E. Daniels, awarded poet, editor and author

“Shards of history are mortared in myth to produce repeating patterns of isolation, deprivation and abuse. And yet, the whole is beautiful. Lee Murray has produced a deeply imaginative, empathic work of redress, giving voice to the voiceless Difficulties of a past not nearly distant enough.” —Kyla Lee Ward, award-winning author of The Macabre Modern and This Attraction Now Open Till Late.

Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud speaks to the liminal spaces between mothers and daughters, the white noise the ancestor spirits leave in our heads, and how their ghosts embrace us decades after their bodies have crumbled to dust. With a deft hand, it crafts tales of triumph and trauma. In this series of emotionally touching prose poems, Lee Murray deftly intertwines the Chinese mythological figure of the nine-tailed celestial fox with real-life tales by Chinese women who have immigrated to New Zealand. These stories are both unique and enlightening cultural anecdotes and relatable tales rooted in the deeper pathos of the human condition.”—Sumiko Saulson, Bram Stoker-nominated author of The Rat King: A Book of Dark Prose and Poetry.

“Set within the recognisable beauty and savagery of New Zealand land-and-townscapes, inspired by tragic histories, Lee Murray weaves together shapeshifting fox mythology and darkly compelling tales of Chinese diasporic women of Aotearoa. ‘You don’t belong here, don’t belong, don’t belong, don’t belong…’ the atua whisper, and yet in Murray’s sumptuous prose, English, te reo and Chinese coalesce. Silenced voices – bloodied, broken – cry from the margins. Lest we forget.”—Alison Wong

“Here are mothers and daughters, often migrated against their will, seen as possessions, tools or easy tropes. Here are the voiceless who have now been given a voice.”—Renee Liang

“In Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud, while paying tribute to her home of Aotearoa-New Zealand, Murray weaves the horrifying yet darkly beautiful tales of women of the Chinese diaspora who have arrived before her into the narrative of the nine-tailed fox spirit húli jīng. A gorgeous tribute to the truth.”—Angela Yuriko Smith, double Bram Stoker Award-winner and author of In Favor of Pain

Interview with Angela Yuriko Smith on Exorcise Your Writes. April 2024)

Articles, blogs, readings, and reviews

Cover Reveal Interview: Lee Murray, Kim Lowe and Christine Ling on the art for Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud.

Other Voices: Uncovering Hidden Women's Narratives, 23 May 2024

Gingernuts of Horror: In Conversation with Lee Murray by Carina Bissett.

The Friday Poem, on The Spinoff

Angela Yuriko Smith  reviews on Authortunities.

Catherine Robertson on RNZ Jesse Mulligan Afternoons, 21/05/24

NZ Booklovers. Review by Chris Reed

Horror Addicts Asian Poets Special 233, May 2024 ,with Lee Murray, Angela Yuriko Smith, KP Kulski, Geneve Flynn, and Ai Jiang

Academy of New Zealand Literature, Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud, Review by Angelique Kasmara

A Full Body Experience: Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud reviewed by Chris Tse

Poetry Shelf Feature: Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud (by Paula Green, June 2024)

Interview with Kayleigh Dobbs on Happy Goat Horror (April 2024)

Interview with Kayleigh Dobbs on Happy Goat Horror (April 2024)

bottom of page