Les A. Murray Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Les A. Murray has collected several volumes of prose pieces, primarily reviews and articles: The Peasant Mandarin: Prose Pieces (1978), Persistence in Folly (1984), Blocks and Tackles: Articles and Essays (1990), The Paperbark Tree (1992), and A Working Forest: Selected Prose (1997). Of particular interest in the second book is the essay “The Human Hair-Thread,” in which Murray discusses his own thought and the influence Aboriginal culture has had on it.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Les A. Murray is considered not only Australia’s major poet but also one of the finest poets of his generation writing in English. His following is an international one, and the uniqueness and power of his poetic voice have caught the ear of many of his fellow poets throughout the world: He has been hailed by Joseph Brodsky, Peter Porter, Mark Strand, and others. He is a prolific and ambitious writer, always willing to try new and unusual techniques but equally at home in the traditional forms of verse, of which he seems to have an easy and lively mastery.

Murray has received numerous awards and prizes, including the Grace Leven Prize (in 1965, with Geoffrey J. Lehmann, and also in 1980 and 1990), the Cook Bi-Centenary Prize for Poetry (1970), Australian National Book Council Award (1974, with others; 1985, 1992), the C. J. Dennis Memorial Prize (1976), the Mattara Prize (with others, 1981), the New South Wales Premier’s Prize for the best book of verse (1983-1984), the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal (1984), the Fellowship of Australian Writers Medal (1984), the Canada-Australia Prize (1985), Australian National Poetry Award (1988), the Australian Book Council’s Bicentennial Prize for Poetry (1988), the New South Wales Premier’s Prize for Poetry (1993), the Victoria Premier’s Prize for Poetry (1993), the European Petrarch Award (1995), the United Kingdom’s prestigious T. S. Eliot Prize (1996), and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry (1999). He was named an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1988. Learning Human was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2001.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Alexander, Peter F. Les Murray: A Life in Progress. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. A literary biography. Well researched, drawing on extensive interviews with Murray.

Birkerts, Sven. “The Rococo of His Own Still Center.” Parnassus 15, no. 2 (1989): 31-48. A serious and sympathetic appreciation of Murray’s poetry by a prominent critic. Birkerts highlights those poems most appropriate for inclusion in the Murray “canon,” showing a keen sense of what Murray’s poetic project entails. Among the first thorough treatments of Murray’s poetry in the United States, this is an accessible and useful introduction.

Bourke, Lawrence. A Vivid, Steady State: The Poetry of Les A. Murray. Kensington: New South Wales University Press, 1992. The first full-length academic study of Murray.

Hergenhan, Laurie, and Bruce Clunies Ross, eds. The Poetry of Les Murray: Critical Essays. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2001. Reprints the essays from a special edition of the journal Australian Literary Studies, devoted to Murray.

Matthews, Steven. Les Murray. New York: Manchester University Press, 2001. A full-length critical study that places Murray in the context of Australian literature and culture.

Murray, Les A. “Les A. Murray.” Interview by Barbara William. In In Other Words: Interviews with Australian Poets, edited by William. Amsterdam: Rodolpi, 1998. Murray speaks of his interest in less conventional poetry, his depression, and poetry in schools.

Smith, Angela, ed. Les Murray and Australian Poetry. London: Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, Kings College London, University of London, 2002. A collection of essays that examine Murray’s poetry and how it relates to Australian and other poets from that nation.

Walcott, Derek. “Crocodile Dandy.” The New Republic 6 (February, 1989): 25-28. This is a generous review by one important poet of another. Walcott makes a case for the international stature of Murray, looking at his extraordinary verbal facility and mastery of form. The sacramental quality of Murray’s poetry is noted, and comparisons are made to such authors as Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, and Rudyard Kipling.

Wilde, W. H., ed. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Includes a lengthy essay on Murray’s career and work.