Last Thursday at Sloan’s Bar in Glasgow, I enjoyed hearing Australia’s greatest contemporary poet, Les Murray, read a selection of his poems.
Murray’s 1986 Selected Poems on Carcanet Press was one of the first poetry books I bought. I had been blown away by the ingenuity of The Quality of Sprawl. I can’t remember how or where I first came to read that poem, but I felt compelled to seek out more of his work. I hadn’t read all that much poetry and didn’t find the Selected easy, but it changed my life, one of those pivotal books that turned me onto what good poems could do.
It was great to hear Les Murray read. He came over as a very relaxed, companionable person – intriguing in itself considering that he has Asperger’s Syndrome. He reads his poems as if he’s chatting to friends in a supermarket queue. Again, considering how tightly crafted they are, that was surprising. As an example, have a look at An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow and then listen to Les Murray reading it. See what I mean? He read fairly quickly too – not always easy to take in – but many of the poems were stunning.
All the books he had on sale disappeared instantly, but I’ve just ordered his latest collection, The Biplane Houses and look forward to reading it.
Afterwards, I joined a bunch of Glasgow-based poets for a couple of drinks and caught the 11.30pm bus home. It’s always nice to catch up with friends in the West.