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Les Murray (1938 - 2019)

  • About
  • Reviews
  • Awards
  • Audio
  • Les Murray (1938-2019) grew up on a dairy farm at Bunyah on the north coast of New South Wales. He studied at Sydney University and later worked as a translator at the Australian National University and as an officer in the Prime Minister's Department. His real vocation was poetry, however, and from 1971 he has made literature his full-time career. He was the first Australian poet to achieve international acclaim without expatriation. Murray first visited Europe in the sixties, and returned frequently to give poetry readings.

    Carcanet publish his Collected Poems and his New Selected Poems (2012), as well as his individual collections, including Subhuman Redneck Poems (1996, awarded the T.S.Eliot Prize) and The Biplane Houses (2006), and his essays and prose writings in The Paperbark Tree (1992). His verse novel Fredy Neptune appeared in 1998 and in 2004 won the Mondello Prize in Italy and a major German award at the Leipzig Book Fair. He also edited The Quadrant Book of Poetry 2001-2010.

    Murray had special links with Scotland, and his Scots ancestors, whilst remaining an important and distinctive Australian writer. Blake Morrison, writing in the Independent on Sunday, called Murray: 'one of the finest poets writing in English today, one of the super league which includes Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott and Joseph Brodsky', and C. K. Stead said of his poetry in the London Review of Books: 'It is wonderfully disciplined writing, offering what poetry and nothing else can offer, an art that arrests one's otherwise ever frustrated sense of the richness of the life that lives only for the moment'.

    In 1994 Murray was nominated for the Oxford Chair of Poetry and in June 1999 he was awarded The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry at Buckingham Palace, an honour was recommended by the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes.

    Les Murray has a page on the Poetry Archive website, where you can listen to audio recordings of his poetry and access other useful resources. Click here.

    'Les Murray's final gift to us, published exactly three years after his death, is certainly worth the wait.'

    André Naffis-Sahely, The Times Literary Supplement

    'His poetry was never less than a rough-edged hymn of praise to the ceaseless and unstoppable wonders of Creation'

    Michael Glover, The Tablet

    'Asked to name the best living poet in English, most times in the past four decades I would have said the Australian, Les Murray... [He] is like someone who sticks his fingers in power sockets at will, electrifying himself and his readers... [He is] a poet who seems not to count stresses or syllables, whose inventions fall in and out of rhyme and regular stanza length, whose poems burst the boundaries of the single volume... The genius of Les Murray will be horribly and woefully under-valued.'
    Michael Hofmann, TLS
    'Very occasionally you come across something on the page which makes you think ''you can't do any better than this.'' Perfection achieved.'
    BBC Radio 4's Saturday Review 
    'Richly prolific, profoundly plebeian, full of wit, learning and dexterity, Australia's greatest living poet'
    Boyd Tonkin
     'It would be as myopic to regard Mr Murray as an Australian poet as to call Yeats an Irishman. He is, quite simply, the one by whom the language lives.'
    Joseph Brodsky
    'There is no poetry in the English language now so rooted in its sacredness, so broad-leafed in its pleasures, and yet so intimate and conversational.'
    Derek Walcott, The New Republic
    '...the true spokesman of the whole nation, the custodian of its soul... the most accomplished poet in Australia today, and among the half dozen most successful poets in the English language...'
    Peter Porter
    'perhaps the most naturally gifted poet of his generation'
    David Malouf
    'It should hardly need saying that merely to mention Les Murray is to heighten the tone of the discourse.'
    Clive James, TLS
    '...a waterfall of a poet, satisfying as a draught of Coonawarra Cabernet -- a year's discovery.'
    Martin Dodsworth, Guardian
    'Les Murray is writing poetry with a lyric grandeur and verbal resourcefulness that are reassuring.'
    Mark Strand
    'Les Murray is a major Australian poet of our time, full stop.'
    Douglas Dunn
    'It is wonderfully disciplined writing, offering what poetry and nothing else can offer, an art that arrests one's otherwise ever frustrated sense of the richness of the life that lives only for the moment.'
    C.K.Stead, London Review of Books
    'Critics speak of him as one of the finest poets writing in English today, one of the superleague which includes Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott and Joseph Brodsky.'
    Blake Morrison, Independent on Sunday
    Awards won by Les Murray (1938 - 2019) Short-listed, 2015 T. S. Eliot Prize (Waiting for the Past ) Long-listed, 1994 for the Oxford Chair of Poetry. Winner, 1996 T.S. Eliot Prize for the best collection. (Subhuman Redneck Poems) Winner, 1999 Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.
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