arts & letters — poetry own logic: each comprises a linguistic “heterocosm” – an alternative world, a second nature – in which Murray can somehow translate non-human presence into intelligible plangency. It’s impossible to read “Pigs” or “The Cows on Killing Day” without feeling, as a human, a stricken species-shame. What happens, then, when humans present? Here’s a goodly snippet from “The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle”: The song cycle is a paean to the natural world (one whole song is dedicated to the mosquito) but also, this time, to the people in it. In long, serpentine lines, Murray works his convergence of place and peoples – Aboriginal, rural, and urban – and their ways of being, of being with the land. The presiding attitude is love, not passionate eros (never that with Murray) but insouciant agape, casual caritas. A holiday park is made, through sacral incantation, no less sacred a site than anything around or before it; this is done in diction inspired in part by R.M. Berndt’s translation of the Wonguri-Mandjigai “Song Cycle of the Moon-Bone” but also from the headiest bits of the Book of Job (as voiced by God). Never have I read an Australian poetry that so naturally, easefully, unselfconsciously and unironically builds the condition of myth. As long as we’re making grand claims, here’s mine: “The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle” is the seminal poem of modern Australia. And, poetry being a game of neither stamina nor averages, if it had been the only poem Les Murray wrote, whatever chapbook or pamphlet it was published in would nonetheless be, yes, one of the great books of the modern world. are Dogs are running around disjointedly; water escapes from their mouths, confused emotions from their eyes; humans snarl at them Gwanout and Hereboy, not varying their tone much; the impoverished dog people, suddenly sitting down to nuzzle themselves; toddlers side with them: toddlers, running away purposefully at random, among cars, into big drownie water (come back, Cheryl-Ann!). They rise up as charioteers, leaning back on the tow-bar; all their attributes bulge at once: swapping swash shoulder-wings for the white-sheeted shoes that bear them, they are skidding over the flat glitter, stiff with grace, for once not travelling to arrive. he wrote a few more poems. Reading through them, we mark some trends of concern (old age, success), some trimming of capacity (he’s moved away, ever since 1996’s from these prodigious, freewheeling sequences). We note the much-noted Of course, Subhuman Redneck Poems, 73
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