Vale Les Murray, Australian Poet

Leslie Allan Murray AO died at the age of 80 years on 29 April 2019. Murray was a nationally and internationally renowned poet who published nearly 30 volumes of poetry during a career of more than 40 years.

Murray’s willingness to engage in political and literary controversies has meant individuals have differing and complex views of him as a person – but the quality, innovative language and continuing importance of his poems transcend these debates.

Take, for example, this extract from Murray’s poem, The Broad Bean Sermon, which demonstrates the power and range of his descriptive verse:


. . . ripe, knobbly ones, fleshy-sided,
thin-straight, thin-crescent, frown-shaped, bird-shouldered, boat-keeled ones,
beans knuckled and single-bulged, minute green dolphins at suck,


Murray is particularly noted for his poems depicting rural life and rural people. His poem, The Cows on Killing Day, is a wonderful example of Murray’s capacity to ignore the conventions of language. In this poem, he creates an unfamiliar syntax that removes us from our usual human mindset, thereby enabling us to see events from a different perspective. Here is an extract:


All me standing on feed, move the feed inside me,
One me smells of needing the bull, that heavy urgent me,
the back-climber, who leaves me humped, straining, but light,
and peaceful again, with crystalline moving inside me.


Please, follow this link and read the complete poem.

For further reading, the Australian Poetry Library offers access to a large selection of Murray’s poems, as does Murray’s official website.

Murray was widely decorated during his lifetime. His awards include the:

. Grace Leven Prize;
. Kenneth Slessor Prize (twice);
. T. S. Eliot Prize;
. Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry; and
. Officer of the Order of Australia.

In 1997, Murray was rated by the National Trust of Australia as one of the 100 Australian Living Treasures.

The passing of Les Murray, one of Australia’s most internationally acclaimed poets, was widely mourned. Here are a number of obituaries:

Sydney Morning Herald

The Guardian

The Conversation

The New York Times