Monday, June 1, 2015

Les Murray*

Les Murray is frequently called the leading Australian poet of his generation. He was raised in a rustic shack near Bunyah, New South Wales — a place of great significance in his poetry. When he was twelve, in 1951, his mother died, and Les had to return home from boarding school to look after his father, who amid the grief was unable to care for himself.

Murray biographer, Peter Alexander has written:
-------"In 1957 Murray went to the University of Sydney to study
-------modern languages. While there he worked on the editorial
-------boards of student publications. At Sydney he was
-------converted from the Free Kirk Presbyterianism of his
-------parents to Roman Catholicism, and the influence of
-------passionately held Christian convictions can be seen
-------everywhere in his verse, though seldom overtly; instead
-------it shows itself, in poems such as 'Blood' or 'The Broad
-------Bean Sermon,' in a strong sense of the power of ritual
-------sacramental in everyday life and of the quality of

It's been five years since the release of his latest collection of new poetry, Taller When Prone. In the mean time, however, his New Selected Poems appeared in the UK in 2012, and in the US in 2014. The following poem is available in this new book.

Poetry And Religion

Religions are poems. They concert
our daylight and dreaming mind, our
emotions, instinct, breath and native gesture

into the only whole thinking: poetry.
Nothing's said till it's dreamed out in words
and nothing's true that figures in words only.

A poem, compared with an arrayed religion,
may be like a soldier's one short marriage night
to die and live by. But that is a small religion.

Full religion is the large poem in loving repetition;
like any poem, it must be inexhaustible and complete
with turns where we ask Now why did the poet do that?

You can't pray a lie, said Huckleberry Finn;
you can't poe one either. It is the same mirror:
mobile, glancing, we call it poetry,

fixed centrally, we call it a religion,
and God is the poetry caught in any religion,
caught, not imprisoned. Caught as in a mirror

that he attracted, being in the world as poetry
is in the poem, a law against its closure.
There'll always be religion around while there is poetry

or a lack of it. Both are given, and intermittent,
as the action of those birds — crested pigeon, rosella parrot —
who fly with wings shut, then beating, and again shut.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Les Murray: first post, third post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.