New Selected Poems

Robert Crawford writes:

Now in his mid-seventies, Les Murray has written some of the most astounding poems of our era. The opening words of several – ‘All me are standing on feed’ or ‘Eye-and-eye eye an eye’ or ‘Sleeping-bagged in a duplex wing’ – announce a talent for reconfiguring the English language. In a lesser writer this would be mannerism, but Murray combines relentless technical adroitness with the courage to draw deeply on aspects of his own experience, some of them very dark indeed. Murray’s life – emblematically, almost mythologically – sets out challenges faced by many writers. Peter Alexander’s biography, Les Murray: A Life in Progress (2000), is a volume every poet and aspiring poet should buy, filch or borrow. Having first met Murray in 1985, I filched it almost as soon as it was published (and draw on it here). The most arresting photographs in Alexander’s book show the infant Murray riding past a chicken-wire enclosure in a tiny wooden cart pulled by his pet goat, and then the poet in his early twenties wearing nothing but a loincloth. The caption reads: ‘March 1961: On a hike down the Woronora River, Murray bet that he could spend the weekend without shoes or trousers – and won.’

(LRB 7 February 2013)

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