Friday, May 3, 2019

On the Passing of Les Murray, Our Greatest Poet

I like to say that I worked with Les Murray at Australia’s Quadrant magazine. He was literary editor; I was an editorial assistant to John O’Sullivan. In fact, I never interacted with him once. You see, Murray rarely left his hometown of Bunyah, a bush borough with a population of about 150. He didn’t own a computer—he typed all his proofs on a typewriter—and we were only allowed to call him on the phone in emergencies.

So writers would mail their short stories and poems to the office in Sydney, and we’d ship them to Bunyah in a big parcel once a month. Those he chose for publication were returned to the office. The rest he sent off in their their self-addressed, stamped envelopes. The rejected manuscripts would return to their writers with the margins covered in suggestions and encouragements from the man The Atlantic called “the greatest poet alive.” Quite the consolation prize.

To me, that was all part of the irresistible charm of Les Murray. The morons at the Nobel Committee excepted, nobody would disagree with The Atlantic’s descriptor—certainly not since the death of Geoffrey Hill in 2016. And yet Murray wasn’t a windswept, romantic figure. He wasn’t a tweedy professorial type or a cosmopolitan in a dark turtleneck. He was a proud bumpkin and an avowed Luddite with bad teeth and a penchant for ugly sweaters. He suffered from depression, the sexiest of mental illnesses; he was also probably autistic, which is more prosaic. Never has such an extraordinary soul carried such an ordinary corpse, as Marcus might have said.

[Read more at The American Conservative]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.