© Image by Norman McBeath

Les Murray

(b. 1938)

"A true poem is dreamed and danced as well as thought." - Les Murray

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • The llex Tree (with Geoffrey Lehmann), Canberra, ANU Press, 1965 - out of print
  • The Weatherboard Cathedral, Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1969 - out of print
  • Poems Against Economics, Angus & Robertson, 1972 - out of print
  • Lunch & Counter Lunch, Angus & Robertson, 1974 - out of print
  • Selected Poems: The Vernacular Republic, Angus & Robertson, 1976 - out of print
  • Ethnic Radio, Angus & Robertson, 1977 - out of print
  • The Peasant Mandarin: Prose Pieces, St. Lucia, UQP, 1978
  • The Boys Who Stole The Funeral, Angus & Robertson, 1979, 1980 and Manchester, Carcanet, 1989 - out of print
  • The Vernacular Republic: Poems 1961-1981, Angus & Robertson, 1982; Edinburgh, Canongate, 1982; New York, Persea Books, 1982 and (enlarged and revised edition) Angus & Robertson, 1988 - out of print
  • The People's Otherworld, Angus & Robertson, 1983 - out of print
  • The Australian Year: The Chronicle of our Seasons and Celebrations, Angus & Robertson, 1984 - out of print
  • Persistence in Folly: Selected Prose Writings, Angus & Robertson, 1984 - out of print
  • Anthology of Australian Religious Poetry (editor), Melbourne, Collins Dove, 1986 (new ed. 1991) - out of print
  • The New Oxford Book of Australian Verse (editor), Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1986 and Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1991, 1999
  • Selected Poems, Carcanet, 1986 - out of print
  • The Daylight Moon, Angus & Robertson, 1987; Carcanet 1988 and Persea Books, 1988
  • Blocks and Tackles: Articles and Essays 1982 to 1990, Angus & Robertson, 1990
  • Dog Fox Field, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1990; Carcanet, 1991 and New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993 - out of print
  • Collected Poems, Angus & Robertson, 1991; Carcanet, 1991; London, Minerva, 1992 and (released as The Rabbiter's Bounty, Collected Poems), Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991
  • Translations from the Natural World, Paddington: Isabella Press, 1992; Carcanet, 1993 and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994
  • The Paperbark Tree: Selected Prose, Carcanet, 1992 and Minerva, 1993 - out of print
  • Collected Poems, Port Melbourne, William Heinemann Australia, 1994
  • Fivefathers, Five Australian Poets of the Pre-Academic Era (editor), Carcanet Press, 1994
  • A. B. Paterson, Selected Poems (editor), Collins/Angus & Robertson, 1992, 1996 - out of print
  • Subhuman Redneck Poems, Carcanet and Sydney, Duffy & Snellgrove, 1996
  • Fredy Neptune, A Novel in Verse, Carcanet and Duffy & Snellgrove, 1998
  • Collected Poems, Carcanet, 1998
  • New Selected Poems, Duffy & Snellgrove, 1999 - out of print
  • The Quality of Sprawl: Thoughts about Australia, Duffy & Snellgrove, 1999
  • Conscious and Verbal, Carcanet, 1999 and Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000
  • Learning Human, Selected Poems, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2000, Carcanet 2001
  • A Working Forest (essays), Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000
  • Learning Human, New Selected Poems, Carcanet, 2001
  • Les Murray (Steven Matthews), Manchester University Press 2001
  • Collected Poems, Duffy & Snellgrove, 2002
  • The Full Dress, An Encounter with the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, 2002
  • Poems the Size of Photographs, Duffy & Snellgrove and Carcanet, 2002
  • New Collected Poems, Duffy & Snellgrove, 2002 and Carcanet, 2003
  • Learning Human: New Selected Poems, Duffy & Snellgrove, 2003
  • Best Australian Poems 2004 (editor), Melbourne, Black Inc, 2005
  • Hell and After, Four early English-language poets of Australia (editor), Carcanet, 2005
  • Les Murray Reading from his poems, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • Biplane Houses, Carcanet 2006
  • Taller When Prone Carcanet Press Ltd, 2010
Les Murray (b. 1938) grew up the only son of poor farmers in a remote valley in New South Wales. It was a hard background but one that instilled in him a love of the landscape and people of rural Australia which has informed his poetry ever since. Despite unhappy times in his final school, Murray won a scholarship to the University of Sydney. His first published collection, The Ilex Tree, (co-published with Geoffrey Lehmann) appeared in 1965 and has been followed by a steady succession of books that have built Murray a formidable reputation as his country's unofficial national poet. Having lived in Sydney for many years, in 1988 Murray returned to live near his childhood home.

The influences and oppositions discernible in Murray's work - love of the land, the tensions between rural and urban life, the struggle for an independent means of expression - are forces that have also shaped modern Australian culture and perhaps help explain both his widespread appeal and the controversy he sometimes attracts. What's not in dispute is the fecundity of his language: "We are a language species" he says ('Employment for the Castes in Abeyance') and he often writes in a rich torrent of words like a latter-day Elizabethan, delighting in puns, allusion, alliteration and learning. He started professional life as a translator and, in effect, he has continued in this role, pushing language to capture experience that is usually beyond our human radar, like the "queer/tonal hunting zone" of 'Bats' Ultrasound'. When the occasion demands though, Murray can also be movingly simple as in his elegy to his father 'The Last Hellos' which draws on the "rough bush working man's language" they spoke to one another. Murray's often spacious poems are a celebration of creation - his collections subsequent to his conversion to Roman Catholicism have been dedicated simply "to the glory of God" - but they are also catholic with a small "c" embracing high culture and fireside yarn, strict form and free verse with equal facility and enthusiasm.

Murray is a well-known reader of his own work, his dry charm and understated style giving voice to the independent spirit of his poems.

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 22 October 2001 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Les Murray's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"Australia was ruled by poetry for tens of thousands of years - prose only became its ruling principle after settlement in 1788." - Les Murray

"Religions are big slow poems, while most poems are short, fast religions." - Les Murray


1980 Grace Leven Prize

1990 Grace Leven Prize

1994 nomination for the Oxford Chair of Poetry

1995 The Petrarch Prize

1996 T.S. Eliot Prize (winner), Subhuman Redneck Poems

1999 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry

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