Uninhibited by style or genre, Murray samples everything that life has to offer, what he sees and experiences, tossing out impressions that startle and attract, a facility of language and a love of place that is both extraordinary and compelling:
"But tears underlie every country. Nowhere do they
discharge the past, which is the live dark matter
that flows undismissably with us, and impends
unseen over every point we reach."
Murray renders landscapes tangible, images that seduce with subtlety, yet paint a stunning portrait grounded in reality:
"Haze went from smoke blue to beige
gradually, after midday.
The Inland was passing over
High up, and between the trees.
The north hills and the south hills
Lost focus and faded away."
(A Levitation of Land)
Contrasting with the poetry that explores the sensory world, a celebration of out natural environment and a caution toward preservation, the poet displays a sharp and canny wit, undeterred from humorous musings:
"Fragrance stays measured
stench bloats out of proportion:
even a rat-size death...
a house-evacuating metal gas
in our sinuses..
give it a Viking funeral."
(The Nostril Songs)
As well the poet is a master of punsmanship, a provocateur of twisted metaphors:
"A rhyme is a pun that knows where
to stop. Puns pique us with the glare
of worlds too coherent to bear
by any groan person."
(Black Belt in Martial Arts)
A man who appreciates the beauty of nature and the history imbued in place, Murray creates streams of images prompted by the past in league with the present:
"Greeks camped out there in lean times
fishing. Their Greek islands lived in town
with their families. Now it is a National Park."
(The Offshore Island)
In "The Cool Green", Murray writes of money, its power to influence behavior, the fact that "millions eat garbage without it", its facile misuse of those in need, its irrelevance to life's grand design:
"Our waking dreams feature money everywhere
but in our sleeping dreams
it is strange and rare.
How did money capture life
away from poetry, ideology, religion?
It didn't want our souls."
The treasure of New South Wales, Les Murray captures the spirit of language in poetry that assails, provokes and haunts, his love of place rich with memory and image, evoking our finer instincts, cautioning an appreciation for the diminishing bounty of a fertile and precious earth. Luan Gaines/2007.