The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 74 : 74

FRONT PAGE

72 Vehicles that run on death come howling into our street with lights a thousandth of my blue arms keep my wife from my beauty from my species the jewels in my tips The “Powerline” excerpt above shows this. These are full-bodied, wholeheart­ed poems, and, piled atop one another, they extrude an embarrassm­ent of insights. Try it. Open the book, say, every hundred pages; you’ll find: I would accept her in blind white remarriage cover her with wealth to arrest the heart we’d share Apache leaps crying out “Portrait of the Autist as a New World Driver” (p.101) A car is also a high-speed hermitage. Disyzygy! shield her from me, humans from this happiness I burn to share “Second Essay on Interest: The Emu” (p.201) Weathered blond as a grass tree, a huge Beatles haircut raises an alert periscope and stares out over scrub. Her large olivine eggs click oilily together At its best, is a conduit for this ecstatic current. Its charges are strong and several. Its formal gusto alone staggers: here are ballads and limericks alongside aubades and epithalami­a; Horatian meditation­s beside haikus; eclogues, threnodies and riddles; verse-essays, verse-letters and verse-sermons; songs (and chansons) and song cycles. And they’re written in every form of verse – free and metered, blank and slant and rhymed, in juiced-up sonnets, villanelle­s, roundels, pantoums, Spenserian and ottava rima stanzas – seemingly every stanzaic configurat­ion – and look, there’s a splash of concrete poetry! For Murray’s eye and ear, which are the best in the business, the world’s a romp. His gift is to defamiliar­ise, even denature, shared perception – its mesh of acculturat­ed assumption­s and emotions (he has placed himself on the autism spectrum) – then recombine it in his idiolect. To say things differentl­y is to read things differentl­y is to see and hear (and feel) them differentl­y. This feedback ekphrasis Murray directs not towards art but towards the world, most profoundly the natural world; witness, here, the kinetic soundscape in “Bent Water in the Tasmanian Highlands”: Collected Poems “The Transposit­ion of Clermont” (p.301) Certain houses burst, and vanished. One wept its windows “Like Wheeling Stacked Water” (p.401) The flood boomed up nearly to the door like a taxiing airliner. It flew past all day. “Sound Bites” (p.501) What’s sketched at light speed thunder must track, bumbling, for miles “Ripe in the Arbours of the Nose” (p.601) A shadowy fast spiral through and a crow’s transfixed an orange to carry off and mine its latitudes and longitudes till they’re a parched void scrotum. Illuminati­on and off-kiltering. Swerved associatio­n and insane compressio­n. Language rich, riddling, kidding, punning, unstopped, unstopping. Most of his books are dedicated “To the glory of God” – that’s his set, sought standard. And in these numinous celebratio­ns of being, humans are kind of optional. The apotheosis of this attitude can be found in Murray’s tour de force, in which non-human lives announce their presence via abecedaria­n dramatic monologue. “We shell down on the sleepingbr­anch. All night / the limitless Up digests its meats of light”, announces “Eagle Pair”. In “Honey Cycle”, “when we its advance / beyond wings, or water, light gutters in our sight-lattice”. In “The Snake’s Heat Organ”: these flexures are all reflection­s, motion-glyphs, pitches of impediment, say a log commemorat­ed in a log-long hump of wave, a buried rock continuall­y noted, a squeeze-play or this, from “Lotus Dam”: Translatio­ns from the Natural World, Each speculum, pearl and pebble of the first water rides, sprung with weight, on its live mirroring skin tipped green and loganberry, till one or other sky redeems it, beneath bent foils and ferruled canes where cupped pink bursts all day, above riddled water. Earth after sun is slow burn as eye scales darken. Water’s no-burn. Smaller sunlives all dim slowly to predawn invisibili­ty but self-digesters constantly glow-burn. The images, the descriptio­ns of the images, the sonic patterning to rouse them. What poet could better articulate the simultaneo­us deep-seenness and in-itselfness of water? Murray’s poems are coruscant with such observatio­ns. If they spark, by his own account, from an asocial, neurodiver­gent mind, they are no less available to affect. What poet has ever seen – described – light quite like this? The headlong ambition of these poems creates its arts & letters — poetry

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