Vale Les Murray

Celebrated Australian poet Les Murray has passed away aged 80.

We were deeply saddened to hear the news of Les Murray’s death late yesterday afternoon. Murray was a leading figure of Australian literature, and leaves behind a towering legacy of award-winning and widely acclaimed writing that made him one of this country’s most successful and renowned contemporary poets.

Our Managing Director Mark Rubbo said, ‘Les Murray has been a giant figure in contemporary Australian literature and his passing is a sad occasion but also a time to reflect on his profound contribution to literature. Murray once described his writing as “hanging out nets of words” hoping that inspiration may catch them. He had a uniquely Australian voice but one that gained him an influence and impact far beyond our shores. Growing up in rural New South Wales, his understanding of the bush and rural life earned him the moniker of the Bard of Bunyah.

'He was a large, kind and generous man troubled by the demons of his past but always ready with a laugh and a sentence that would make you think. His words were powerful, simple and complex, challenging and comforting, childlike and sophisticated; these made up his genius. He was a regular visitor to our bookshop and his visits were always an occasion; he had a grace and majesty about him accompanied by a generosity of spirit and often by a group of younger poets who he mentored. I relished those visits, part inspection (which I feared we always failed) and part spectacle. Sadly they are finished now and I will miss them greatly.’

Born in 1938 in Nabiac, Murray grew up in poverty on his grandparent’s dairy farm in Bunyah, the central New South Wales town that formed the inspiration for much of his poetry – including his penultimate poetry collection On Bunyah – and which he returned to as an adult in 1985 to live with his family.

His career spanned more than 40 years, during which he received several prestigious accolades and prizes for his work, including the Grace Leven Prize (in 1980 and 1990), the Petrarch Prize (in 1995), the T.S. Eliot Prize (in 1996) and the Queens Gold Medal for Poetry (in 1999). Murray was also awarded an Order of Australia and was listed as one of Australia’s 100 National Living Treasures by the National Trust of Australia.

He was widely admired by many fellow writers, including David Malouf, who described the bush poet as ‘utterly unorthodox’ in a statement to the ABC, and his work as ‘undoubtedly the best poems anybody has produced in Australia’. Several writers have also posted their remembrances of Murray on social media, including Thomas Keneally, who described him as a ‘magnificent poet’ and a ‘genius’; and Nikki Gemmell, who wrote: ‘We have lost a giant of literature. A beautiful, humble, funny, courageous, generous and gentle titan of Australian letters. [Murray’s] words were a gift to us all.’

Murray published close to 30 books and his most recent was 2018’s Collected Poems. His publisher Black Inc. said in a statement: ‘We mourn his boundless creativity, as well as his original vision. His poetry created a vernacular republic for Australia, a place where our language is preserved and renewed.’

Collected Poems

Collected Poems

Les Murray

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