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