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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 LesMurray 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 ...


Les Murray

16 August 1990
...  ...
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 a million ...

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 and worked for ...
31 August 1989
... In a tacky glass-foundry yard, that is shadowy 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 ...

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 trade ...

The Billions

Les Murray

21 April 1988
... At the whizz of a door screen moorhens picking through our garden make it by a squeak into the dam and breasting the algal water resume their gait and pace on submerged spectral feet, and they nod like that half-filled Coke bottle we saw in the infant river as it came to its affliction in the skinny rapids. There it made a host of dinky bows, jinked, spun and signalled till it was in the calm again ...


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. Harm fades from the spirit as tiles repeat time beyond time their riddle, neat stanzas that rhyme from the middle styles with florets with tendrils of balm. Henna and mulberry ...
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 ...

Two Poems

Les Murray

16 February 1989
... On Removing Spiderweb Like summer silk its denier but stickily, o ickilier, miffed bunny-blinder, silver tar, gesticuli-gesticular, crepe when cobbed, crap when rubbed, stretchily adhere-and-there and everyway, nap-snarled or sleek, glibly hubbed with grots to tweak: ehh weakly bobbined tae yer neb, spit it Phuoc Tuy! filthy web! Dog Fox Field The test for feeblemindedness was, they had to make up ...

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 ...
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 just long enough ...

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 ...

Two Poems

Les Murray

29 October 1987
... The Tin Wash Dish Lank poverty, dank poverty, its pants wear through at fork and knee. It warms its hands over burning shames, refers to its fate as Them and He and delights in things by their hard names: rag and toejam, feed and paw – don’t guts that down, there ain’t no more! Dank poverty, rank poverty, it hums with a grim fidelity like wood-rot with a hint of orifice, wet newspaper jammed ...

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