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Les Murray

1938–2019

Leslie Allan Murray was born October 17, 1938, in Bunyah, New South Wales, Australia. He attended the University of Sydney where he studied modern languages, worked as a translator, and served in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve.

His poetry collections include Waiting for the Past: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016); The Biplane Houses (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007); Poems the Size of Photographs (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004); Learning Human: Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000), which was shortlisted for the International Griffin Poetry Prize; and Subhuman Redneck Poems (Duffy & Snellgrove, 1996), winner of the 1996 T. S. Eliot Prize. His many awards include the Queens Gold Medal for Poetry, awarded to him in 1999 on the recommendation of Ted Hughes.

Murray also published two verse novels: The Boys Who Stole the Funeral (Cancarnet Press, 1989), and Fredy Neptune: A Novel in Verse (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999), which centers around the picaresque life of German-Australian sailor Friedrich Boettcher, a kind of Nordic hero who witnesses and records, in the demotic style, the foibles of his age.

About his work a reviewer for The Guardian wrote: "The great bulk of Murray's poetry [is] unlike anything else in the world of modern writing. It is above controversy, about modernism and traditionalism and remains a challenge to whatever is left of contemporary commitment to verse." Murray has said that he has a "vital interest in giving utterance and form to hitherto unexpressed elements of Australian mind and character" while drawing inspiration from "Australian landscape, folklore, history, war, technology, deserts."

He was formerly the editor of Poetry Australia and is currently the editor of Quadrant Magazine. He has given readings, lectures and talks in Australia, Britain, Europe, and the United States. Murray died on April 29, 2019.

Les Murray
Photo credit: Norman McBeath
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