Mildura Weekly : Friday July 22 Vol 10 No 37
NEWS 9 FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2016 MILDURAWEEKLY.COM.AU By ALEXANDRA TRELOAR NOT unlike his internationally-re- nowned poetry, Les Murray is a very direct character. His no-nonsense demeanour, sharp wit and soothing vocabulary are the attributes that make him Australia’s most recognised poet. For more than half a century, the 77-year-old has made a living out of words. And while he has been the recipient of some of the world’s most esteemed awards, in- cluding the TS Eliot Prize (1996), Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry (1999) and tipped for a Nobel Lit- erature Prize several times, Mr Mur- ray insists that a life in writing is a humble existence that is reserved for the truly passionate. “You have to be prepared for a life of unemployment, because the temptation of riches are not given to poets,” Mr Murray said while in Mildura for the 2016 Mildura Writ- ers Festival. Growing up on a dairy farm at Bunyah on the north coast of New South Wales, Mr Murray said that as a young person, he was deter- mined to find something he loved to do. “I wanted to be good at some- thing, I didn’t want to spend my life in routine and be rigid in an of- fice,” he said. “I wanted to do something that kept me interested and something I could master, but I’ll never get on top of poetry. No-one ever has.” With more than 1000 pieces of published work to his name (most being translated into 10 languag- es), Mr Murray said he never wor- ried about running out of things to write about, but rather, is con- cerned there isn’t enough time to get everything he wants to say onto the page. It is this passion for the craft that puts the poet in a league of his own. “I never wanted to be caught in a routine job and try to write in my spare time – you can’t do it – you’ll only ever be an inferior writer if you do that,” he said. “Give yourself entirely to it, and even then there is no guarantee you’ll be any good at it, there are no guarantees on any- thing.” No one would be able to pre- dict what Les Murray’s next piece might be about, his subject content is as vast and as varied as it gets. Poems about bread, Bunyah and bats feature among Mr Mur- ray’s work, while he has also writ- ten about AIDS, depression and the tensions between rural and urban life. There isn’t a subject the writer won’t touch. “I’m always experimenting and trying to discover something new, I’m learning to vary the music,” he said. “I have never gotten to a stage where I couldn’t improve any more, I’ve been trying to out-write myself for the last 50 years.” Writing has not only served one of the country’s national treasures as a career, but in certain periods of his life has been therapy. It has been widely publicised that the poet had an “alienating” childhood. A complicated relationship with his mother, who he lost at 12, left Murray to be raised by his father, who suffered from crippling grief. Relentlessly bullied at school, the young writer was left with a lot of open wounds which he rediscov- ered when he was diagnosed with severe depression in the late 1980s. “I said to myself at the time, I’m not going to obey this bastard, I’m going to write from the point of view of my other egos, and I turned outtobegoodatit,anditdidmea lot of good,” he said. ‘Killing the Black Dog’ is one of Mr Murray’s most successful publications and was critiqued by The New York Times as “a pungent, forthright primer in what depres- sion can look like – and surely will make many suffering from the dis- ease feel less alone with it.” “I’d disapproved of using po- etry as personal therapy, but the Black Dog taught me better. Get sick enough, and you’ll use any remedy you’ve got,” Mr Murray said. The legendary poet is most defi- nitely a product of his upbringing. Be- ing an only child, he thrives in his own company, wel- coming solitude, which he says is a tool that helps him write. “You need a fair bit of solitude, but I find that so easy because I grew up that way,” he said. “I get peopled out, I’ve got a bad habit of referring to other peo- ple as ‘the humans.’” Although there is a lot to be taken away from Mr Murray’s pieces, he insists there is never an agenda or message that he tries to “infect” his audiences with, instead he would prefer they simply take pleasure from his work. “It’s a bad mistake to have a message, because it will tie you down, you shouldn’t advise or per- suade people, but rather surprise them,” he said. The art of writing poetry may seem complex, but Mr Murray says the secret to success is simplifying the process. “I start writing a poem in order to find out where it goes, and make discoveries,” he said. “I find that if I follow that or- ganic course, it has the best result. You can’t follow any particular course slavishly all the time, but you’ll find that one will take you further than most. “Even writing a novel or a story you are constrained by the char- acters and the plot, but one thing about poetry is there is no damn plot in it!” Having visited the district last week to fulfil his duties as patron of the Mildura Writers Festival, Mr Murray said he is very fond of the area, having visited for more than 20 years, and has even written sev- eral poems about his time in Sun- raysia. “This is the only festival I come to,” Mr Murray said. “It’s much more humane and a lot more friendly. No one is trying to com- pete with each other. Most other festivals are for publishers, this is purely a writer’s event.” “I’ve been trying to out-write myself for the last 50 years.” – Les Murray, Australian poet Les Murray is an iconic Aussie... Putting a poet’s pen to paper Photo: Simon Jackson SALES PHONE: 1300 791 672 FAX: (03) 5023 7200 www.titanaustralia.com 36-42 Te nth Street, Mildura Please send us an email with any enquiries to email@example.com AUSTRALIA TYRES | WHEELS | AXLES As part of the Titan International Group of companies, Titan Australia is a leader in the design, development and sales of the toughest and most durable wheels, undercarriages, axles and tyres for agriculture. Titan keeps you heading in the right direction TOUGH. DURABLE. BUILT TO LAST.
Friday July 15 Vol 10 No 36
Friday July 29 Vol 10 No 38