Australian poet walks tall in St Andrews

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Les Murray reading at Parliament Hall, St Andrews on 25th October 2010

More than a hundred people turned out to hear Australian poet Les Murray at Parliament Hall, St Andrews last night, leaving behind the cold Scottish night air for a journey to the Antipodes with this most astonishing of poets. Murray is part of the poetic ‘superleague’, regularly compared with Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott. Among many awards, he has won the T. S. Eliot prize and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

During his relaxed and informal reading – mainly from his collected works and his new collection Taller when Prone, published in the UK by Carcanet – Murray demonstrated how, with his sometimes deceptively simple vernacular, he could sneak up and surprise you. By turns funny, satiric, moving and profound, his observations of rural life in Australia took in friends, neighbours and the natural world, from the Aboriginal figure of the moon man, to bushfires and dust storms. His eye for natural detail was evident in poems about a ‘window-struck’ kingfisher and a mute Russian Grey pet cat, ‘lapping up clay water’ in the poet’s garden. ‘Science Fiction’ was a deft tribute to Edwin Morgan and a reminder of Murray’s interest in his Scottish roots.

The evening was organised by the School of English at the University of St Andrews in association with StAnza and introduced by the Principal, Dr Louise Richardson. 

The poet Robert Crawford, Professor at the School of English, gave the closing address, commenting on how Murray’s poetry  ‘resonates so remarkably with the contemporary world.’