Sad news of the death of Les Murray

Les Murray. Photo: Hayley Madden for The Poetry Society.
Les Murray. Photo: Hayley Madden for The Poetry Society.

We are very sad to report the death of the internationally celebrated and much loved poet Les Murray, who died aged 80 on 29 April 2019.

Born 17 October 1938, Murray grew up on a dairy farm at Bunyah, New South Wales. He studied at Sydney University and later worked as a translator at the Australian National University and as an officer in the Prime Minister’s Department. He first visited Europe in the sixties, returning frequently to give poetry readings. From 1971 he made literature his full-time career. He was the first Australian poet to achieve international acclaim without expatriation. He was a poet’s poet – Derek Walcott’s warm words about Murray’s work were typical: “There is no poetry in the English language now so rooted in its sacredness, so broad-leafed in its pleasures, and yet so intimate and so conversational.”

Murray’s Collected Poems and his New Selected Poems (2012) are published by Carcanet, as are his individual collections, including Subhuman Redneck Poems (1966, awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize) and The Biplane Houses (2006). His most recent collection On Bunyah was published by Carcanet in 2017. His verse novel Fredy Neptune appeared in 1998 and in 2004 won the Mondello Prize in Italy and a major German award at the Leipzig Book Fair. Murray also edited The Quadrant Book of Poetry 2001-2010. In 1999 he was awarded The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry at Buckingham Palace, an honour for which he was recommended by the then Poet Laureate Ted Hughes.

Murray gave The Poetry Society Annual Lecture in 2010, ‘Infinite Anthology: Adventures in Lexiconia’, at Institute of English Studies, University of London, taking the exquisite delights of word-collecting – a lifelong passion – as his theme. The interview he gave at the time to Poetry Society Director Judith Palmer for Poetry News is published online. The Poetry Society’s commemorative limited edition print of his poem ‘High-speed Bird’ was an immediate sell-out.