In Les Murray’s poem “Bent Water in the Tasmanian Highlands,” the poet articulates his theme in two main ways. What are they, how are they connected, and how do they relate to Murray’s conception of a “meaningful life”?

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In “Bent Water in the Tasmanian Highlands,” Les Murray articulates his theme through stacked images and metaphors and in an overall symbolism that indicates his concept of life. Let’s look at this in more detail to get you started.

First, notice the primary content of this poem. Murray is describing a flow of water, and he uses images upon images, all stacked up one on top of another. This actually reflects the cascade he describes. His choices of imagery are vivid and interesting, sometimes obscure. They catch the reader off-guard, and they are supposed to, for Murray wants us to truly understand this water. As you construct your answer, you should pick out a couple of these images that stand out to you and discuss their importance. You might choose “jazzy knuckles ajitter on soakages,” for instance, or the water being “in the high tweed.”

This water, however, stands for something more than water, or at least that is what the poem leads us to conclude. Murray seems to be using water as a symbol for the flow of life. Perhaps life is just as crazy as that rushing water and just as filled with images and metaphors. Perhaps the meaning of life is found in the flowing of life with all its variations and chaos and interest and beauty.

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