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Les Murray Biography

(1938– ), Persistence in Folly, The Ilex Tree, The Weatherboard Cathedral, Poems against Economics, Ethnic Radio

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Mr Polly to New France

Australian poet, born at Nabiac, New South Wales, educated at Sydney University. Murray worked as a translator before becoming an influential critic, reviewer, and poet. His challenging view on the importance of the land in the mythology of Australians, both indigenous and settler, is expressed in the essay ‘The Human Hair Thread’ (first published 1977) in his critical collection Persistence in Folly (1984). Murray's first collection, The Ilex Tree (1965, with Geoffrey Lehmann), established his distinctive concerns: the shaping rituals of the everyday, and a powerful and almost instinctive empathy for the quiddities of rural life and labour. His belief in the necessity, and possibility, of ‘cultural convergence’ between settler Australian and Aboriginal values posits themes of great import for contemporary Australian society, themes extended with impressive poetic versatility in subsequent collections: The Weatherboard Cathedral (1969), Poems against Economics (1972), and Ethnic Radio (1977). Murray's stature and versatility is demonstrated in The Vernacular Republic: Poems 1961–1981 (1982; revised and enlarged 1988) and Selected Poems (1987). The Peasant Mandarin (1978) and Blocks and Tackles: Articles and Essays 1982–1990 (1990) collected stimulating prose writings; The Paperbark Tree: Selected Prose appeared in 1993. The Boys Who Stole the Funeral: A Novel Sequence (1980) unusually employed a sequence of 140 sonnets to narrative effect. Other works include The Daylight Moon (1988), The Dog Fox Field (1990), and Translations from the Natural World (1992). His Collected Poems were published in 1991. Murray has also edited the New Oxford Book of Australian Verse (1986) and an Anthology of Religious Poetry (1987).

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