In Memoriam

‘Master is gone; the Apprentice forlorn’

Vale Les Murray (17th Oct 1938 – 29th April 2019)

Not knowing any better

I sent them off to Quadrant

got back a letter

“I’ve taken ‘The Conqueror’

and scribbled on the rest

They seemed to need it

Send more before I am old.”


So I did, hoping,

and he always wrote back

a strong, bold hand:

“You’ve used ‘black’

twice in the same stanza;

fix that and send again.”


But then

“No, on a second read

this one’s lost its magic.”

And then

“Sorry, I can’t like any of these.”


“Your muse has let you off too lightly.”

Though now and then he took one.


I had a clear picture of the farm,

meant to drive there one day

as a pilgrimage

drop in unannounced,

never did,

then there was On Bunyah.

Didn’t need to after that.


Saw him read at the House

a few years back

the Pope of poetry

the faithful seeking blessings,

a great shy, shambles of a man

stumbling but infallible

an institution already dying.

But the words ring true.


They now remain forever.

Christopher Nailer



Les Murray reading at the Midland City Hall

In Midland, he is on the prowl.

A Grizzly bear without the growl:

  wandering through a field of verse.

  Jolly shaman without a curse.

Unflappable and kindly owl,

he’s planting poems with a trowel,

for us to peck at like a fowl,

  their sonorous seeds to disperse.

  in Midland.

Scattering consonant and vowel;

smiling face and jocular  jowl,

  plucking wisdom out of a purse

  while questioning a universe

that is ,at once, both fair and foul.

  In Midland.

Derek Fenton


       Aloysius’s Lament

in memoriam Les Murray 1938 – 2019 


Master is gone; the Apprentice forlorn,

his unfinished works, shadowed, in repose –

the mentor has died, a mentor is born.


The cauldron is cold that fired the morn,

his watchful eye, so sharp yet so kind, closed,

Master is gone; the Apprentice forlorn.


Grief smothers the day, the heart’s page is torn,

so small in death, his white hair, a white rose,

the mentor has died, a mentor is born.


He left you complete and found you half-formed.

Works you presented, so many he chose,

Master is gone; the Apprentice forlorn.


There is no tomorrow, the soul is sore,

the beloved’s fled, you cannot follow,

the mentor has died, a mentor is born.


Pick up your tools, Aloysius, and soar,

there’s much you must give, before you can go.

Master is gone; the Apprentice forlorn –

the mentor has died, a mentor is born.

Joe Dolce



The Promise

‘Taller When Prone’ by Les Murray:

A volume of poems each Title a poem

at the end ‘Winding Up at the Bootmaker’s’

     turned to find fourteen pristine pages


Peered into the blank shadows of the binding

felt the creamy nap of the paper

seeking a lead  an inkling  a thrust of rustic divinity

     Read and un-read my expectations


Flicked back to the poems to read ‘Cattle-Hoof Hardpan’

heard the breath in four short lines

Curiously related to ‘The Man in the White Bay Hotel’

     coveted the idea of being ‘unrescued’ at life’s end


Harmonised a Score to the beckoning beat of

‘Jimmy Sharman’ and the ‘Malley Show drums’

A ‘Wyandotte Hen’ fluffed up her Golden Lace feathers

     poised on one leg   stared one-eyed through the words


In the peculiar light of the corrugated iron Show Pavilion

‘Marble cakes in ribboned pens’

tri-coloured layers dipping and rising

     with the clicking heat and aroma of a wood-burning stove


Closed ‘Taller When Prone’ on my lap

untended the memories and moved on

The sequel would be found in ‘Waiting for The Past’

     with the promise of winding up ‘On Bunyah’ to fill the void.

Helene Castles


When Reading Poetry by Les Murray

Everything is as expected, yet new;
as a memory or a déjà vu.
The way sentences form as though
his brain has connected to mine
and his point of view is mine.
And when he cries
his tears come from that place
of holding time to attention —

I’ve been to that place, listening;
when words make sense.
There, music is in a Celtic key
and haunts the skin on arms
until returning sanity gives back
an ability to breathe normally.

Marilyn Peck






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