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Australia-born Les Murray is the author of 23 titles published in Australia and several in the U.S. and England, including The Vernacular Republic (1982), The Daylight Moon (1988), The Rabbiter’s Bounty: Collected Poems (1991), The Boys Who Stole the Funeral Sequence (1991), Dog Fox Field (1992), Translations from the Natural World (1992), Subhuman Redneck Poems (1997), Fredy Neptune: A Novel in Verse (1999), Learning Human (2000) – Griffin Poetry Prize Shortlisted Book in 2001 – and Conscious and Verbal (2001), voted a Notable Book for 2001 by the American Library Association. Selected prose includes The Quality of Sprawl and A Working Forest. His latest book, Bi-Plane Houses, was published in the spring of 2006.

He has won the T.S. Eliot Prize and has been honoured by the Australian government with the Medal of the Order of Australia for his services to literature. He has been elected an Honorary Fellow by the Australian Academy of the Humanities and was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1998. In addition, he has won numerous National Book Council Awards in Australia, the Australian National Poetry Award, and the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal (1987), among others. He lives on the coast of New South Wales.

The Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry is saddened to learn of Les Murray’s passing on April 29, 2019. Among the close to 30 books he published over 40 years, we were honoured to have two of his works grace the 2001 and 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlists. We offer our deepest sympathies to his loved ones.

Conscious and Verbal

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
2002 Shortlist
United States
Shortlisted in:

Judges’ Citation

A generous selection of poems, written over a period of thirty-five years by the preeminent Australian poet of the late twentieth century.

A generous selection of poems, written over a period of thirty-five years by the preeminent Australian poet of the late twentieth century. Les Murray has a sure touch with the long leisurely poem, written in panavision and what he celebrates in ‘The Quality of Sprawl!’ ‘Sprawl is doing your farming by aeroplane, roughly, /or driving a hitchhiker that extra hundred miles home.’ Murray is also good on the Polaroid snapshot – of an oyster, for instance, with its ‘bloodless sheep’s eye.’ Whether he’s running a marathon or the hundred meters, Murray gives us beauty and bounty in equal measures.

Judges’ Citation

Conscious and Verbal, the title of the latest book – the eighth in little over a decade – by Les Murray, is taken from a hospital press release, informing Australians that their great national poet, after three weeks at death’s door with sudden catastrophic liver failure, was on the mend.

Conscious and Verbal, the title of the latest book – the eighth in little over a decade – by Les Murray, is taken from a hospital press release, informing Australians that their great national poet, after three weeks at death’s door with sudden catastrophic liver failure, was on the mend. One can hear the deprecating giggle, the understatement, in the phrase once Murray adopted it as a title. It is a typically rich and varied performance. What Murray can do is to write interestingly and characteristically about anything and everything; his imagination is fired by any sort of subject: city and country, staying at home or travelling abroad, memory and history, the present or the future, satire or hymn, culture or nature. Here, as well as the poem of his survival – called ‘travels with John Hunter’ (‘I was sped down a road/ of treetops and fishing-rod lightpoles/ towards the three persons of God/ and the three persons of John Hunter/ Hospital. Who said We might lose this one.’ – calm and witty and inventive, there are poems in Conscious and Verbal on the joys of libraries and swimming pools, on poetry and oysters, and Harley Davidsons. If you had to choose a poet to save your life, you could do worse than choose Les Murray.