…but whatever we are intent on saving, when a restoration succeeds, we rescue ourselves.” Howard Mansfield
From: Landmarks (2015), by Robert Macfarlane:
“Each box I opened held treasure or puzzles: early poems; first drafts of Waterlog; a copy of the screenplay for My Beautiful Laundrette sent to Roger (Deakin) by Hanif Kureishi; word-lists of place-language (tufa, bole, burr, ghyll); a folder entitled‘Drowning (Coroners)’, which turned out not to be a record of coroners that Roger had drowned, but an account of his research into East Anglian deaths-by-water. It was hard not to get distracted, especially by his notebooks. Each was a small landscape through which it was possible to wander, and within which it was possible to get lost. One had a paragraph in which Roger imagined a possible structure for Wildwood: he compared it to a cabinet of wonders, a chest in which each drawer was made of a different timber and contained different remarkable objects and stories. The notebooks, taken together, represented an accidental epic poem of Roger’s life, or perhaps a dendrological cross-section of his mind. In their range and randomness, they reminded me that he was, as Les Murray once wrote, ‘only interested in everything’.”
Dan Chiasson wrote in the New Yorker of June 4, 2007:
“Poetry goes to the backwater to refresh itself as often as it goes to the mainstream, a fact that partly explains the appeal of Les Murray, the celebrated “bush bard” of Bunyah, New South Wales, Australia. The son of a poor farmer, Murray, who was not schooled formally until he was nine, is now routinely mentioned among the three or four leading English-language poets. Because in Murray’s poetry you learn, for example, that there exists such a thing as the “creamy shitwood tree,” he has been mistaken for a neutral cartographer of far-flung places. But the key to Murray, what makes him so exasperating to read one minute and thrilling the next, is not landscape but rage. “How naturally random recording edges into contempt,” Murray writes, identifying the poles of his own combustible poetic temperament.
Murray’s poems, never exactly intimate and often patrolled by details and place-names nearly indecipherable to an outsider, reflect a life lived self-consciously and rather flamboyantly off the beaten track. Murray has always been associated with the land in and around Bunyah, where Aborigines harvested wild yams before Murray’s own people, “bounty migrants” from Scotland, displaced them in 1848. His childhood was marked by “lank poverty, dank poverty,” a condition enforced by his grandfather, who kept Murray’s parents in a brutal, resentful tenancy—sharecroppers, in essence, on their own ancestral lands. Murray’s biographer, Peter Alexander, describes a slab house with a shingle roof and a floor of stamped earth covered by linoleum, sunlight streaking “through the generous gaps in the walls.” Perhaps no major English poet since John Clare grew up in such destitution, and, like Clare, Murray enjoys the “hard names” associated with being poor: “rag and toejam, feed and paw.”…”