|Les Murray, one of Australia's premier living poets, was interviewed by Peter Thompson on ABC TV's "Talking Heads" this evening. You can read the transcript of the program here.|
Results tagged “Les Murray”
Les Murray has a poem, with the title "Science Fiction", published in the January 28th issue of "The New Yorker".
I wonder what sort of sf Murray would read? I reckon he'd be a 1960s New Wave sort of bloke - Ballard, Phil Dick, Aldiss, Ellison and Delany. Don't know why - it just seems to fit. But not Le Guin. I don't see that at all.
Dan Chaisson surveys Les Murray's poetry in "The New Yorker", dipping into Fredy Neptune and The Biplane House along the way.
Poetry goes to the backwater to refresh itself as often as it goes to the mainstream, a fact that partly explains the appeal of Les Murray, the celebrated "bush bard" of Bunyah, New South Wales, Australia. The son of a poor farmer, Murray, who was not schooled formally until he was nine, is now routinely mentioned among the three or four leading English-language poets. Because in Murray's poetry you learn, for example, that there exists such a thing as the "creamy shitwood tree," he has been mistaken for a neutral cartographer of far-flung places. But the key to Murray, what makes him so exasperating to read one minute and thrilling the next, is not landscape but rage.
In the midst of praising the TS Eliot Prize judges, Boyd Tonkin likens the winner, Seamus Heaney, to two other great modern poets: Les Murray and Derek Walcott. "Poetry specialists may scorn as pure fiction the special category into which I tend to slot Seamus Heaney from County Derry, Les Murray from the Manning River, New South Wales, and Derek Walcott from the island of St Lucia. Sure enough, they can differ vastly in outlook and approach, Yet each of this trio of giants is both earthy and ecstatic, local and global, imbued with the past but alert to the present. And each has consistently tested and deepened the ties between Eliot's poetic 'tradition' and the 'individual talent' that modifies it."
In last weekend's "Australian" newspaper, Peter Craven raised the question of whether or not Australia would ever win another Nobel Prize for Literature. It's a reasonable enough parlour game, I've played it myself, so it is always interesting to have a look at the likely, and unlikely, candidates. I say "another" because, as most of us will be aware, Patrick White is Australia's only previous winner of the award, picking up the gong in 1973. The Nobel Prize committee makes it a specific point that a writer's nationality has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they win the prize. Fair enough. But it makes for a pretty boring discussion. The main prize website studiously does not list either the laureates' nationality, nor their language of choice, so I had to consult Wikipedia to get a nationality breakdown. And a pretty interesting one it is too. Top country so far is France, and I wouldn't have picked that. The USA maybe - they run a close second, 13 laureates to 12 - but how many French novelists can you name off the top of your head. Probably no more than four or five who might have been eligible some time in the twentieth century. This is not to denigrate French literature, by no means, it is more an indication of how little we see of it translated and available in far-flung outposts such as Australia. It's just a strange result, is all. Though I must point out that Wikipedia does include Gao Xingjian as French, as he lives there, and I have heard of him. But leaving aside the top countries what about the ones at the other end of the scale that have only won one Literature prize? It makes for interesting reading: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Columbia, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, Finland, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Yugoslavia.
Only one each for China and India? Strange. Switzerland has been awarded 2. Needless to say, English is the most awarded language with 26 laureates, followed by French with 13, German with 12, and Spanish with 10. Maybe Australia can point to this statistic as an indicator for why they have only been awarded one prize: Australian works written in English might well get lost in the ruck of the vast numbers of novels, plays and poetry written in that language. Just a thought. But to return to Craven's original article, the list of authors who might be under consideration is an interesting one; mostly for the authors he looks at that you might never consider an even faint possibility. Amongst the usual suspects of Peter Carey, Les Murray, David Malouf, Tom Keneally, Germaine Greer, Clive James, and Shirley Hazzard, you'll also find him talking about Peter Porter, Helen Garner, Robert Hughes, Murray Bail, Tim Winton, Elizabeth Jolley, and Sonya Hartnett; the last of those made my eyebrows head skywards. Craven gradually works his way through this list (although not in this order), praising in turn and dismissing their chances: not enough work produced, not enough variation, too early, aybe too late.
And he comes down to two: Carey and Murray. Peter Carey he deals with first and, while admitting the author may well win it one day, he finds it hard to imagine Carey doing so before such writers as Milan Kundera or John Updike. It's hard to argue with that point. So Craven comes down on the side of Les Murray, "the nation's most famous poet". Of the world's great poets, such as Walcott, Heaney and Brodsky, only Murray has not been awarded the prize. As Craven puts it, of Australian writers "..only Murray would not have his reputation significantly enhanced if he did win it." This year? No, can't see it happening. Writers in English have won three of the past 5 prizes which may have some influence. I know writers in English won three years in a row recently (1991 to 1993) but I also seem to remember some backlash against that succession of wins. So, no, not this year. But I reckon within five years we'll get to see the big fella in a monkey suit. I'd better get reading. Don't want to be caught being as ignorant of Murray as I am of Patrick White when I've had fair warning.
Odd how these things turn up. Reminds me of the time I got a funny look from a visiting American friend when I told her, at the footy as it happens, that the bloke playing full-forward for St Kilda (Fraser Gehrig) was related to the baseballer, Lou, of the same family name.
Today is the birthday of two of Australia's greatest writers: Sumner Locke Elliot and Les Murray.
Sumner Locke Elliot was born in Sydney on this day in 1917. The son of writer Sumner Locke, he is probably best known for his 1963 novel Careful He Might Hear You which won the Miles Franklin
award and which was later made into a film in 1983, featuring Wendy Hughes and Robyn Nevin, and directed by Carl Schulz. Elliot emigrated to the USA in 1949 where he died in 1991. He was presented with the Patrick White Award in 1977.
Les Murray was born in Nabiac, New South Wales, in 1938. He graduated from the University of Sydney, worked and travelled widely before deciding on a freelance writing career in 1971. He is best known for his poetry which is known world-wide, with such volumes as The People's Otherword, Fredy Neptune and Subhuman Redneck Poems. He was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1998 on the recommendation of Ted Hughes, he was proclaimed an Australian Living Treasure in 1998, and is an Officer of the Order of Australia. Perpetually rumoured to be on the shortlist for the Nobel Prize, he lives near Bunyah in New South Wales, only a few kilometres from where he grew up.
"Windows is Shutting Down" is a new poem by Clive James, published at the end of last week in "The Guardian".
[Thanks to Andrew Johnston at The Page for the links.]