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On Les Murray

Colin Burrow: Les Murray, 26 July 2017

... Bunyah is​ a valley about 300 km north of Sydney in which the Australian poet Les Murray grew up, and to which he returned in 1985 as ‘my refuge and my homeplace’. Over-educated readers might imagine from its title that On Bunyah (Carcanet, £14.99) is a set of philosophical meditations which belongs on the shelves next to, say, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty ...

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 ...

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 ...

Words of the Glassblowers

Les Murray, 31 August 1989

... and bright as an old painter’s sweater stiffening with light, another lorry chockablock with bottles gets the raised thumb and there hoists up a wave like flashbulbs feverish in a stadium before all mass, nosedive and ditch, colour showering to grit, starrily, mutually, becoming the crush called cullet which is fired up again, by a thousand degrees, to a ...

Accordion Music

Les Murray, 11 January 1990

... A backstrapped family Bible that consoles virtue and sin, for it opens top and bottom, and harps both out and in: it shuffles a deep pack of cards, flirts an inverted fan and stretches to a shelf of books about the pain of man. It can play the sob in Jesus!, the cavernous baastards note, it can wheedle you for cigarettes or drop a breathy quote: it can conjure Paris up, or home, unclench a chinstrap jaw but it never sang for a nob’s baton, or lured the boys to war ...

The Greenhouse Vanity

Les Murray, 18 May 1989

... Sea-perch over paddocks. Dunes. Salt light everywhere low down just like the increasing gleam between Bass Strait islands nine thousand years ago. In an offshore tidal town the Folk Museum moans of a stormy night, and shrills: You made the oceans rise! Rubbish, it was you! The Pioneers Room and Recent Times are quarrelling. By day the flannelled drone: up at daylight, lard and tea, axe and crosscut till black dark, once I shot a ding- o at the cradle, there at fifteen, the only white woman ploughing by hand, parrot pie, we sewed our own music – Recent Times blink and hum; one bends to B-cup a pair, each point the rouge inside a kiss; one boosts the tape-deck till coal conveyors rattle and mile-high smokestacks pant Beige! beige! on every viewscreen ...


Les Murray, 29 September 1988

... Tiles are mostly abstract: tiles come from Islam: tiles have been through fire: tiles are a sacred charm: After the unbearable parallel trajectories of lit blank tile, tile-figures restore the plural, figuring resumes its true vein ...

The Billions

Les Murray, 21 April 1988

... on gritty ice in wideawake cities with tower flats and smog horizon and there we work, illusionless, scared lest live rhyme with naive till the evening lights come on. That’s the Enlightenment: Surface Paradise. It cures symptoms, and is fun, but almost any warmth makes floes those caught on them must defend as the ...

Two Poems

Les Murray, 16 February 1989

... Irma who looked Chinese, and Hans who knew his world as a fox knows a field. Hunted with needles, exposed, unfed, this time in their thousands they bore sad cuts for having gazed, and shuffled, and failed to field the lore of prey and hound they then had to thump and cry in the vans that ran while stopped in Dog Fox Field. Our sentries, whose holocaust ...

Blue Roan

Les Murray, 8 November 1990

... families once would come just to watch men knock off work, on the Bulliac line, the fear of helplessness still burned live brush. Dirty white smoke sent up its scattered sign and in at the races and out at home the pump of morale was primed and bled: ‘Poor Harry in the street, beer running out his eyes,’ As the cousin who married the mailman ...

Two Poems

Les Murray, 8 March 1990

... Aircraft Stressed-Skin Blowout Mid-Pacific The miles-high bubble civility ruptured, and instantly the tear stormed with a jetlike volatility of baggage shoes people into air darkly white and shrilling as the pole that every unbuckled thing was whirling to. Windmilling toward seats already nowhere a member of the cabin crew was going with the West out the hole when legs in a scissor lock around her and male hands in her clothes before the blue absolute mastered it, raped her of fall then, under restored equal pressure, gestured in a tear-halo with joking humility ...

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 ...

Two Poems

Les Murray, 29 October 1987

... Lank poverty, dank poverty, the cornbag quilt breeds such loyalty. Shave with toilet soap, run to flesh, astound the nation, run the army, still you wait for the day you’ll be sent back where books or toys on the floor are rubbish and no one’s allowed to come and play because home calls itself a shack and hot water crink...

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