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Les Murray (poet) - Australia - Poetry International
 
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Les Murray
(Australia, 1938)   
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Les Murray

“Religions are big slow poems, while most poems are short, fast religions.” – Les Murray

Les Murray was born in New South Wales, Australia, in 1938 and grew up in Bunyah (c. 200 km northeast of Sydney) on his widower father’s dairy farm. At the end of the 1950s he studied at Sydney University, where he was an editor of Hermes, Honi Soit and Arna.

He left the university in 1960 and travelled around Australia and converted to Catholicism. In 1962 he married Valerie Morelli, with whom he has five children. He worked as a translator at the Australian National University, while pursuing his career as a poet, eventually leaving for Europe in 1967 and then returning to Australia to graduate from his university studies in 1969. He was editor of Poetry Australia (1973−79) and Angus & Robertson’s poetry list (1976−1990). In 1971, Murray committed to life as a full-time writer, and in 1986 he returned to Bunyah, where he still lives.

Murray’s first collection, The Illex Tree, was published in 1965 with Geoffrey Lehmann. It has been followed by a prodigious output, including some thirty collections of poetry, two verse-novels, eight collections of prose and five edited volumes.

Murray is ranked alongside Walcott, Heaney and Brodsky as one of the key voices in contemporary English-language poetry, and has been compared to Auden for his mastery of form and language, while Peter Porter claimed that he is no less than “the custodian of Australia’s soul”. Deeply attuned to the Australian vernacular and the lifeblood and rhythm of the rural world he evokes, Murray often riddles both humour and polemic through his work, critiquing the urban social worlds against which he positions himself defiantly as an outsider. With a deft ear for the demotic, Murray creates a rich, fecund music that follows the currents of human life as well as the broader natural world of which it is part.

Murray’s work has been translated into eighteen languages. In 1996 he was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize, in 1998 he received the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry, and in 2004 he received the Mondello Prize. In 1989 he was made an officer of the Order of Australia for his services to Australian literature and has often been tipped for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

© Michael Brennan

Bibliography

Poetry

The llex Tree 
(with Geoffrey Lehmann), ANU Press, Canberra, 1965
The Weatherboard Cathedral, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1969
Poems Against Economics, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1972
Lunch & Counter Lunch, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1974
Selected Poems, The Vernacular Republic, Angus & Robertson, Sydney/London, 1976
Creeper Habit, Broadsheet/Open Door Press, 1976
Ethnic Radio, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1977
The Boys Who Stole The Funeral, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1979, 1980; Carcanet, Manchester, 1989; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1991
The Vernacular Republic, Poems 1961–1981 (enlarged and revised edition of 1976 publication), Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1982; Canongate, Edinburgh,1982; Persea Books, New York, 1982; (enlarged and revised edition) Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1988
Equanimities
 (limited edition 350 copies),
 Razorback Press, Copenhagen, 1982
The People’s Otherworld, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1983
Selected Poems, Carcanet, Manchester,1986
The Daylight Moon, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1987; Carcanet, Manchester,1988; Perse a Books, New York, 1988
The Gravy in Images, 
International Liturgy Assembly, 1988
The Idyll Wheel, Cycle of a Year at Bunyah, NSW, April 1986–April 1987 (limited edition, 200 copies),
 Officina Brindabella, Canberra,1989
Dog Fox Field, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1990; Manchester, Carcanet, 1991; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1993
Collected Poems,
 Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1991; 
Carcanet, Manchester,1991; Minerva, London, 1992; 
(released as The Rabbiter’s Bounty, Collected Poems)
 Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1991
Translations From the Natural World, Isabella Press, Paddington,1992; Manchester, Carcanet, 1993; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1994
Collected Poems,
 William Heinemann Australia, Port Melbourne, 1994
Subhuman Redneck Poems, Carcanet, Manchester, 1996; Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 1996
Fredy Neptune, A Novel in Verse, Carcanet, Manchester, 1998; Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 1998
Collected Poems, Carcanet, Manchester, 1998
Anthology, Odyssey Poets, Nether Stowey (UK), 1998
Conscious & Verbal, Carcanet, Manchester, 1999; Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 2000
New Selected Poems, Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 1999
Learning Human, Selected Poems, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2000
Learning Human, New Selected Poems, Carcanet, Manchester, 2001
Poems the Size of Photographs,
 Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 2002
Collected Poems, Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 2002
The Full Dress, An Encounter with the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, 2002
New Collected Poems, Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 2002; Carcanet, Manchester, 2003
Learning Human, New Selected Poems, Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 2003
The Biplane Houses, Black Inc., Melbourne, 2006; Carcanet, Manchester,2006
Selected Poems, Black Inc., Melbourne, 2007
Taller When Prone, Black Inc., Melbourne, 2010; Carcanet, Manchester, 2010

Prose

The Peasant Mandarin, UQP, St Lucia, 1978
Persistence in Folly, Selected Prose Writings
, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1984fie
The Australian Year, The Chronicle of our Seasons and Celebrations
 (with photographs by Peter Solness and others), 
Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1985
Blocks and Tackles, Articles and Essays 1982 to 1990, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1990
The Paperbark Tree, Selected Prose
, Carcanet, Manchester, 1992; 
Minerva, London, 1993
Killing the Black Dog (introduced and edited by Christine Alexander), Federation Press, Annandale, 1996
A Working Forest, Selected Prose, Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 1997
The Quality of Sprawl, Thoughts about Australia, Duffy & Snellgrove, Sydney, 1999

 




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