Les Murray

Les Murray was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1999; he is published in the UK by Carcanet.

Poem: ‘Brown Suits’

Les Murray, 23 October 2008

Sorting clothes for movie costume, chocolate suits of bull-market cut, slim blade ties ending in fringes, brimmed felt hats, and the sideburned pork-pie ones that served them. I lived then.

The right grade of suit coat, unbuttoned, can still get you a begrudged free meal in a café. But seat sweat off sunned vinyl, ghostly through many dry-cleans and the first deodorants. I lived then


Poem: ‘The Statistics of Good’

Les Murray, 8 August 2002

Chaplain General (RC) Archbishop Mannix of Melbourne, he who had a bog-oak footstool so his slipper might touch Irish soil first, when alighting from his carriage

saved, while a titular Major-General in the Australian Army, perhaps half the fit men of a generation from the shrapnelled sewer landscapes of Flanders by twice winning close referenda against their conscription.

How many men? Half...

Poem: ‘Robert Fergusson Night’

Les Murray, 4 January 2001

for the commemoration at St Andrews University, October 2000

All the Fergussons are black I’ve heard said in the Outback. Sub rosa, the Scots empire ranged wide. I hope Scotland proportions her pride now to the faith her lads kept with all the subject folks they slept with. I know for you this wasn’t an issue. Madness made a white man of you

disastrously young. You stayed alive...

Poem: ‘Predawn in Health’

Les Murray, 1 June 2000

The stars are filtering through a tree outside in the moon’s silent era.

Reality is moving layer over layer like crystal spheres now called laws.

The future is right behind your head; just over all horizons is the past.

The soul sits looking at its offer.

Poem: ‘Blue Roan’

Les Murray, 8 November 1990

for Philip Hodgins

As usual up the Giro mountain dozers were shifting the road about but the big blue ranges looked permanent and the stinging-trees held no hint of drought.

All the high drill and blanket ridges were dusty for want of winter rains but down in the creases of picnic oak brown water moved like handled chains.

Steak-red Herefords, edged like steaks with that creamy fat the health...

I lived in funeral: Les Murray

Robert Crawford, 7 February 2013

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...

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Now for the Hills: Les Murray

Stephanie Burt, 16 March 2000

Prodigious and frustrating, welcoming and cantankerous, Les Murray’s body of work has made him both Australia’s best-known poet and its most powerful. Full of Australian history,...

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James Wood, 5 August 1993

Poetry anthologies are now expected to make holy war; but what to do with The New Poetry, which strives so earnestly to turn its trumpet-majors into angels? The 55 poets collected here are, it...

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Boeotian Masters

Donald Davie, 5 November 1992

I don’t know when I was so baffled by a book, or by my response to a book. Up to past the half-way mark I was delighted, finding in Murray’s prose repeatedly the dash and decisiveness...

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Advice for the New Nineties

Julian Symons, 12 March 1992

Every poetic rebellion hardens sooner or later into an ossification of style and language and needs replacement by something at the time believed to be its opposite. In the 20th century it has...

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Ancient Orthodoxies

C.K. Stead, 23 May 1991

‘Aller Moor’, the first poem in Antidotes, begins And now the distance seems to grow Between myself and that I know: It is from a strange land I speak And a far stranger that I...

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Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

One of the finest things in Donald Davie’s Under Briggflatts is a sustained, learned and densely implicative comparison of two poems about horses: Edwin Muir’s well-known,...

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Standing up to the city slickers

C.K. Stead, 18 February 1988

Les Murray (b.1938) grew up on a dairy farm in northern New South Wales, an only child whose mother died of what seems to have been a medical misadventure when he was 12. The farmhouse was hardly...

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