New Selected Poems by Les MurrayNew Selected Poems by Les Murray

New Selected Poems

byLes Murray

Paperback | August 4, 2015

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A fresh selection of the finest poems-some previously uncollected-by one of our finest English-language poets

Why write poetry? For the weird unemployment.
For the painless headaches, that must be tapped to strike
down along your writing arm at the accumulated moment.
For the adjustments after, aligning facets in a verb
before the trance leaves you. For working always beyond

your own intelligence.
-from "The Instrument"

New Selected Poems contains Les Murray's own gathering from the full range of his poetry-from the 1960s through Taller When Prone (2004) and including previously uncollected work.
One of the finest poets writing today, Murray reinvents himself with each new collection. Whether writing about the indignities of childhood or the depths of depression, or evoking the rhythms of the natural world; whether writing in a sharply rendered Australian vernacular or a perfectly pitched King's English, his versatility and vitality are a constant. New Selected Poems is the poet's choice of his essential works: an indispensable collection for readers who already love his poetry, and an ideal introduction for those who are new to it.

Les Murray is the author of twelve books of poetry. His collection Subhuman Redneck Poems received the T. S. Eliot Prize, and in 1998 he was awarded the Gold Medal for Poetry presented by Queen Elizabeth II. He lives in New South Wales, Australia.
Title:New Selected PoemsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 7.98 × 5.25 × 0.99 inPublished:August 4, 2015Publisher:Farrar, Straus And GirouxLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0374535418

ISBN - 13:9780374535414


Read from the Book

The Burning Truck i.m. Mrs Margaret WeltonIt began at dawn with fighter planes:they came in off the sea and didn’t rise,they leaped the sandbar one and one and onecoming so fast the crockery they shook downoff my kitchen shelves was spinning in the airwhen they were gone.They came in off the sea and drew a waveof lagging cannon-shells across our roofs.Windows spat glass, a truck took sudden fire,out leaped the driver, but the truck ran on,growing enormous, shambling by our street-doors,coming and coming …By every right in town, by every averagewe knew of in the world, it had to stop,fetch up against a building, fall to rubblefrom pure force of burning, for its wholebody and substance were consumed with heatbut it would not stop.And all of us who knew our place and prayersclutched our verandah-rails and window-sills,begging that truck between our teeth to halt,keep going, vanish, strike … but set us free.And then we saw the wild boys of the streetgo running after it.And as they followed, cheering, on it crept,windshield melting now, canopy-frame a cagetorn by gorillas of flame, and it kept onover the tramlines, past the church, on pastthe last lit windows, and then out of the worldwith its disciples.Driving Through Sawmill Towns1In the high cool country,having come from the clouds,down a tilting roadinto a distant valley,you drive without haste. Your windscreen parts the forest,swaying and glancing, and jammed midday brilliancecrouches in clearings …then you come across them,the sawmill towns, bare hamlets built of boardswith perhaps a store,perhaps a bridge beyondand a little sidelong creek alive with pebbles.2The mills are roofed with iron, have no walls:you look straight in as you pass, see lithe men working,the swerve of a winch,dim dazzling blades advancingthrough a trolley-borne trunktill it sags apartin a manifold sprawl of weatherboards and battens.The men watch you pass:when you stop your car and ask them for directions,tall youths look away –it is the older men whocome out in blue singlets and talk softly to you.Beside each mill, smoke trickles out of moundsof ash and sawdust.3You glide on through town,your mudguards damp with cloud.The houses there wear verandahs out of shyness,all day in calendared kitchens, women listenfor cars on the road,lost children in the bush,a cry from the mill, a footstep –nothing happens.The half-heard radio singsits song of sidewalks.Sometimes a woman, sweeping her front step,or a plain young wife at a tankstand fetching waterin a metal bucket will turn round and gazeat the mountains in wonderment,looking for a city.4Evenings are very quiet. All aroundthe forest is there.As night comes down, the houses watch each other:a light going out in a window here has meaning.You speed away through the upland,glare through townsand are gone in the forest, glowing on far hills.On summer nightsground-crickets sing and pause.In the dark of winter, tin roofs sough with rain,downpipes chafe in the wind, agog with water.Men sit after teaby the stove while their wives talk, rolling a dead matchbetween their fingers,thinking of the future.An Absolutely Ordinary RainbowThe word goes round Repins,the murmur goes round Lorenzinis,at Tattersalls, men look up from sheets of numbers,the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their handsand men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:There’s a fellow crying in Martin Place. They can’t stop him.The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mileand drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talkand more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streetswhich minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:There’s a fellow weeping down there. No one can stop him.The man we surround, the man no one approachessimply weeps, and does not cover it, weepsnot like a child, not like the wind, like a manand does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor evensob very loudly – yet the dignity of his weepingholds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about himin the midday light, in his pentagram of sorrow,and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to seize himstare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their mindslonging for tears as children for a rainbow.Some will say, in the years to come, a haloor force stood around him. There is no such thing.Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped himbut they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,the toughest reserve, the slickest wit amongst ustrembles with silence, and burns with unexpectedjudgements of peace. Some in the concourse screamwho thought themselves happy. Only the smallest childrenand such as look out of Paradise come near himand sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stopshis mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit –and I see a woman, shining, stretch her handand shake as she receives the gift of weeping;as many as follow her also receive itand many weep for sheer acceptance, and morerefuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,but the weeping man, like the earth, requires nothing,the man who weeps ignores us, and cries outof his writhen face and ordinary bodynot words, but grief, not messages, but sorrow,hard as the earth, sheer, present as the sea –and when he stops, he simply walks between usmopping his face with the dignity of oneman who has wept, and now has finished weeping.Evading believers, he hurries off down Pitt Street. Copyright © 2007, 2012, 2014 by Les Murray

Editorial Reviews

"Would somebody please, please give this guy his Nobel Prize? Les Murray is 75, a farmer, an Australian, an outspoken conservative Catholic, and one of the planet's best poets writing in English . . . New Selected Poems is Murray's first such career survey since 2000. It's a bracing read; Murray always is. He's a cultivated roughneck, cultivating awkwardness and brute English to create unsuspected, original loveliness . . . [Murray's] poems leave you vertical and delighted. So much of this book leaves a smile of pleasure and gratitude for a poet this good. Get him that Nobel, someone." -John Timpane, The Philadelphia Inquirer"Murray's New Selected Poems is an event, a desert island book from a continent mostly desert. The volume includes more of his furiously inventive early work and 113 pages of poetry drawn from the five collections published since Learning Human (1998), his previous selected collection. Here is 'The Burning Truck,' a poem that evokes war, innocents' response to war, and the transformative power of the unpredictable. Murray writes, addressing this truck, 'but set us free.' Much of the thrust of Murray's verse is found in this wish and in parsing whom 'us' refers to and the nature of the freedom they wish for. Murray, acutely sensitive to how language reflects class and distorts values, wields it as a great leveler; because his poetry liberates us. His forms never draw attention to themselves, and, at his best, Murray is a seer, his versification effortless, breathing. Among dozens of peerless descriptions, Murray sees a foal at the moment of birth 'drop in the grass / like little loose bagpipes.' Other exceptional poems include 'An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow,' 'The Mitchells,' 'Equanimity,' and 'Machine Portraits with Pendant Spaceman.'" -Michael Autrey, Booklist (starred)"This first career selection since 2000 from the man who is arguably (and controversially) Australia's national poet gives U.S. readers another chance to see what makes him original, ambitious, cantankerous, much-honored, sometimes awkward, and sometimes great. Raised in the farm country of New South Wales, Murray (Taller When Prone) remains a champion of the agrarian landscape and of Australia's varied terrain. Early georgic and pastoral masterpieces show unforced attention to the details of flora, fauna, soil, and air, along with Murray's brilliantly ungainly line: 'the sun is an applegreen blindness through the swells, a white blast on the sea face, flaking and shoaling.' Murray also writes superbly about animals, how we see them, and how they might see their world; about an Australian ideal of informality and acceptance; and in defense of the socially excluded. That same defensive instinct leads the pious Catholic poet (now age 75) to verse screeds against what Americans call 'PC.' See past the polemic, however, and the Murray of the 1990s and (less often) the 2000s will reward you with terrifying yet empathetic short stories in verse, ballad stanzas, enjoyable rough-hewn couplets, and observant comments on the man-made environment in Australia and beyond. As Murray writes: 'Wildlife crossings underneath/ the superglued pavement/ are jeep sized beasts must see/ nature restart beyond.'" -Publishers Weekly"Les Murray has written some of the most astounding poems of our era. The opening words of several - 'All me are standing on feed' or 'Eye-and-eye eye an eye' or 'Sleeping-bagged in a duplex wing' - announce a talent for reconfiguring the English language. In a lesser writer this would be mannerism, but Murray combines relentless technical adroitness with the courage to draw deeply on aspects of his own experience, some of them very dark indeed. . . Murray is one of the very few poets with whose best work you feel that having read it you won't, can't, be quite the same again . . . the New Selected Poems shows his range well, extending from religious lyric to social satire to the show-offy one-liner." -Robert Crawford, London Review of Books