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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Romei

Les Mur­ray’s new book, On Bun­yah, is a cel­e­bra­tion in verse and pho­to­graphs of the place he calls home, “a ru­ral val­ley in­land from the Pa­cific, around 300km north of Syd­ney’’. Bun­yah, Mur­ray writes in an in­tro­duc­tion, “has been my refuge and home place all my life, though I did live away for 29 years’’. “It, and more gen­er­ally the lower north coast of NSW, have been es­sen­tial ma­te­rial in my verse writ­ing for 50 years.’’

Many of the po­ems in On Bun­yah will be fa­mil­iar to read­ers of Mur­ray’s work, but the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pho­to­graphs per­haps less so. The sim­ple cap­tion for each is as printed in the book.

Mur­ray says of this poetic sur­vey of his home: “There is lit­tle or no fic­tion in this book, ex­cept for the odd bits of folk­lore that are un­der­stood as such, and not ev­ery I is me.’’ From his high seat, an owner of cat­tle has sent dogs to work a mob of An­gus. They hit the gravel run­ning and draft as or­dered. In the old milk­ing days dogs were apt to be un­trained mixed-breed biters screamed at from the house since cows had farm­ers im­pris­oned, un­able to go any­where, in­clud­ing field days where ex­per­tise and the la­conic style were fos­tered. Where whistling re­shaped fin­gers and words were one syll. Now new breeds and skill si­lence the pad­docks a mur­mured vowel brings col­lie and kelpie fly­ing along the road-cut­ting till each makes its leap of judge­ment into the trac­tor tray loose-tongued, smil­ing front.

Au­thor’s fa­ther ad­mon­ish­ing his blue dog

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