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New Collected Poems

by Les Murray

Les Murray is a giant among poets and he has published consistently for 40 years. His work has been brought together in this imposing collection of 577 pages.

Born in 1938, Murray was raised in a very anti-intellectual environment, the harshness of which contributed to his unique voice and legendary breadth of vision. Murray’s poems combine minutely specific observations, broad ideas and challenging opinion. His language is accessible and there is nothing exclusive or rarefied about this ‘voice of the Outback’. Murray’s work spans a time of change and liberalisation in views among Australians and he considers himself something of an outsider, and has at times been a pariah, whose raw, urgent voice has no place among the ‘high art’ poets of history. Murray is not afraid of voicing views that disturb and provoke. His powerful voice speaks on identity and a passionate relationship with the land. For him Australia is felt in the bones.

In Hell and After, 2005, Murray selected, edited and introduced Australian poets. Murray is critical of the constraints and impediments preventing the flow of Australian poetry across the English-speaking world and wanted to display these (possibly overlooked) poets to readers abroad, who had not had access to them previously. As in his poems, Murray is often sensitive to pre-conception and prejudice. On the vital and essential nature of poetry, Murray is unequivocal – stating that for the first sixty thousand years of culture in Australia, poetry ruled everything, prose only arrived with the First Fleet in 1788. Sung, rather than spoken poetry is still living among the Aboriginal people, whose ancestral creator spirits ‘wrote’ these poems long ago.

Murray is currently preparing The Biplane Houses, a volume of his new poems. The poem from which the title originates is Shining Slopes and Planes, which was published in Quadrant Magazine, 2004. This wonderful poem quietly takes the reader to another space and time. Its words are full of purposeful, ordinary activity and it makes for a new perspective or fresh take on the fabric of life. ‘The biplane houses of Australia’ is such a resonant and memorable phrase, conjuring the sights and sounds of a place, we can almost smell the dust.

Another new poem On The Borders, published in the 2002 collection Poems the Size of Photographs is also utterly remarkable. In response to the landscape of the tablelands, Murray writes that it ‘Lets me rest from thinking’. A sense of wonder in the landscape defies noisy, busy analysis and actually demands a mood of quiet awe. Murray’s tone of contemplation and respect is very serious indeed and as stated in the same poem ‘Too much poetry is criticism now.’

Read more about Les Murray on his website.
Also go to the Guardian website for Robert Potts' detailed piece on him.

To hear another fantastic Australian poet, Chris Wallace Crabbe, read his own poems, go to his website.

See below for wines that are produced in Les Murray's area of Australia.

Hunter Valley
After James Busby landed in Sydney with Australia's first vine cuttings, the first wine region to be settled for serious grape and wine production was the Hunter Valley, 160km to the northwest. Semillon and Shiraz were (and are) the varieties this region is famed for. Semillon, notoriously lean and mean when young, turns into a rich toasty butter-bomb, and Shiraz, despite the oft-repeated tasting note of 'sweaty saddles', is some of the most gutsy, earthy and beguilingly baked-fruited of all. It’s hot here - some say too hot - and this is more than obvious in Hunter Chardonnays. Darlings of the 1980s, they got the variety off to a flying start in this country by virtue of their out-and-out tropical toastiness.

A little further inland, to the west of the Hunter, is Mudgee. In Aboriginal Mudgee means 'nest in the hills', and this is the perfect nesting place for Shiraz. Not the leathery spicy style of the Hunter, or the plummy violetty stuff of the Barossa, but ripe, rounded, lusciously flavoured wine that lends well to being blended with the Cabernet and Merlot also grown hereabouts. It's the highland coolness that makes the difference.

Situated at 600-900 metres above sea level, the volcanic hillside vineyards of Orange are some of Australia's coolest. This makes them great place to grow white grapes. Look out for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with great citrus intensity: they get ripeness from warm sunny days, and crisp fresh acidity from cool mountainside nights. Compare them with wines from the Adelaide Hills and note the difference.

Two types of wine come from Riverina: easy-drinking cask wine, and rich, golden, apricotty botrytis Semillon. Tasting the latter, which gathers the best from the region’s long sunshiny days, and you'll be in for a dessert wine treat. Sticky sweet fortified wines from the region are an after dinner bonus, if you can find them.

New Regions, New Wines...
West of the Great Dividing Range, sheltered away from coastal rain, are three new regions: Cowra, Tumbarumba and Hilltops. Watch Cowra for peachy rich Chardonnay, Tumbarumba for tangy Sauvignon, and Hilltops for berry and spice Cabernet, and see what else emerges in the future...

To find out more about Australian wine and wine growing regions, log on to


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