Poetry International Poetry International

I.M. Les Murray

Pieter Vandermeer
April 29, 2019
‘Everything except language / knows the meaning of existence. / Trees, planets, rivers, time / know nothing else. They express it / moment by moment as the universe.’  
These lines from the poem ‘the meaning of existence’ illustrate the mentality and poetry of the Australian poet Les Murray, who died today (April 29th, 2019) at the age  of 80. Murray was one of the great poets of the past fifty years, one whose name kept cropping up during speculation about possible Nobel Prize candidates. The ubiquitous presence of Australia, where he was born and raised, can be felt throughout his work: the landscape, the human communities, youth, old age, and death are celebrated in his fluent, reflective, and appealing poetry. Through his refined manner of composition he managed to connect engaging anecdotes with poetic depth.

The poet Peter Porter was right to call him “the custodian of the Australian soul”.

Murray, who was Catholic, coined the powerful aphorism “religions are big slow poems, while most poems are short, fast religions.” Though his poetry often contains a religious base, this is mainly expressed in his relation to nature, the world, and the universe. 
After some wandering within and outside of Australia, he returned to his birthplace in 1986. In the village Bunyah, which consists of no more than a few scattered houses, he would remain until his death.
© Jan Baeke
Translator: Fleur Jeras
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Gefinancierd door de Europese Unie
Elise Mathilde Fonds
Stichting Verzameling van Wijngaarden-Boot
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère