Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Renowned Australian Literary giant and poet Les Murray dies, age 80

Cecil had died in 1995, which prompted one of Murray’s most moving poems, The Last Hellos ("Don’t die, Dad -/ but they die.").

RIP the great Les Murray. Among his many achievements, his incredible poem DOG FOX FIELD about the Nazi murder of the disabled. A warning to history. A masterpiece.
 Thank you, Les.

       Australian poet Les Murray has passed away; see, for example, Michael Duffy on Les Murray: The leading poet of his generation and possibly of this country's history in theSydney Morning Herald. 

       With ten of his books under review at the complete review, obviously I am a great admirer of his work; novel-in-verse Fredy Neptune is a particular favorite, but look beyond that, too.

Les Murray, Dissident Poet | David Mason | First Things

A Catholic convert, Murray was a religious poet devoted to creation, but skeptical of all orthodoxies and authorities. Most of his many books bear the dedication “to the glory of God,” as clear a statement of his poetics as anything. If the Word was in the beginning, Murray understood the importance of language while maintaining a healthy modesty about its efficacy.
"I am only interested in everything": Les Murray, who has died aged 80, and whose body of poetry reflects & enacts that roving, voracious curiosity. I once heard him recite 'Pigs' from memory -- forceful and eerie, his eyes rolling almost back up into his skull as he spoke.

Australian literary giant Les Murray dies

Fortunately for himself and for Australian poetry, he met Budapest-born Valerie Morelli, and in 1962 they married.
(Les Murray's wife, Valerie, recalls the Hungarian immigrant experience)

Les Murray: The leading poet of his generation and possibly of this country history  ...
On the way to bury his mother in 1951, Les Murray saw an old Aboriginal man standing by the road with his eyes down and hat off.

"I was 12 then," the poet would recall, "but that man has stayed with me, from what may well have been the natal day of my vocation as a poet, a good spirit gently restraining me from indulgence in stereotypes and prejudices."

Murray was the leading poet of his generation and possibly of this country’s history. His power came from extraordinary poetic technique and a determination to draw for his subject matter on Australia and its past, to which he felt unusually connected by his personal history.

For many readers he enhanced the experience of living here, by revealing a richer culture than we had known, and indeed expanding it. Many talented writers of his generation felt the need to go away; Murray did not.

Vale Les Murray, a witty, anti-authoritarian, national poet who spoke to the world

R.I.P., Les Murray. “Poetry can work as the highest form of talking cure, but you have to tell the absolute truth, so far as you can dredge that up,” the Australian poet told us in his 2005 Art of Poetry interview. Read more: 

Leslie Allan Murray AO was an Australian poet, anthologist and critic. His career spanned over forty years and he published nearly 30 volumes of poetry as well as two verse novels and collections of his prose writings. His poetry won many awards... Wikipedia
From the Archives, 2002: In the Land of Les Murray The Sydney Morning Herald
Australian poet Les Murray dies at 80 
ABC Local
'Always his own man': Australian poet Les Murray dies aged 80 SBS

Les Murray is survived by Valerie, children Christina, Daniel, Clare, Peter, and Alexander.

Mittleuropean story:

Les Murray’s wife, Valerie, recalls the Hungarian immigrant experience

Because of the fraught situation in Hungary in 1944, three-year-old Val­erie and her 18-month-old bro­ther Steve (Istvan) were rushed on to a packed Red Cross train to join relatives in Switzerland.
They were supposedly under the care of two nuns who largely ignored the screaming baby as bombs rained down. Val­erie Murray, wife of poet Les Murray, believes Steve was traumatised for life by this experience.
It was a year before the siblings were reunited with their mother in Zurich, and longer before they were joined by their father, who was trading on the black market to raise money. In the meantime, the children were passed around among relatives.
Murray writes in the preface of her memoir Flight from the Brothers Grimm: “Both my brother Steve and I were born during World War II in Hungary with a Swiss mother (albeit with German antecedents) and a Hungarian ­father unbelievably named Gino Morelli … We came from a cocktail of European backgrounds.”
The Morellis were not Jewish but, because of this “cocktail of backgrounds”, found themselves stateless and in need of a new home. Hungarians came to Australia in four waves starting in the 1830s. By far the largest influx (15,000) consisted of DPs (displaced persons) who came between 1948 and 1952, followed by those who escaped after the Hungarian uprising of 1956.
The Morelli family arrived in Sydney in 1950 when Valerie was nine. My Hungarian family arrived in Melbourne in 1949 when I was 10. We too were stateless and I too had a younger sibling I was often left to care for, though I was not left alone for a week at a time as Valerie was while her parents went skiing. (Today this would be illegal.)

Steve had been packed off to boarding school. Like me, Valerie was scared witless by the popular radio program Inner Sanctum with the creaking doors and terrifying advancing footfalls. While Valerie’s education and wardrobe were carefully attended to, she was isolated and had too much responsibility.
Children’s emotional needs were rarely considered and Valerie suffered panic attacks and depression for several years until she found friends and gained some independence and even part-time work. I feel a great deal of empathy with young Valerie and her brother.
Murray has self-published this memoir. Close to the end of the book, she notes an exasperated comment from a friend when presented with a memoir, “Not another bloody migrant memoir!”
Hungarian immigrants, along with those from many other nations, have made significant contributions to Australian society and many have compelling stories to tell. It’s important these are recorded and available to younger generations who may be ignorant of Australia’s rich immigration history.
Perhaps Hungarians like talking about and reflecting on their experiences more than others. In a chapter titled Motivation, Murray writes: “It’s a matter of responsibility to me and all the people in my life … but also, I hope, an act of unburdening, of catharsis.” Later she adds: “I needed to recover as much of my background as I could.”
The first third of the book reads as though information has been gleaned and assembled from family snaps as Murray strives to piece together the fragments of her early life as a cosseted child in Hungary and then her more chaotic existence in Switzerland.
The histories of her parents, grandparents and extended family are somewhat confusing and it is hard to hold on to the details and relationships of so many people. We learn her parents were keen shooters. “[In Switzerland] My parents used to practise in the long corridor of their apartment with their air rifle. They would aim at the small doorbell above the entrance door.”
The Morelli family’s trajectory was like that of many immigrants. A block of land, a house that was always a work in progress, a struggle to fit in and to find the best salami. Mr Morelli got into business and thrived. Stylish, well-turned-out Mrs Morelli had excellent references as a designer-cutter from Zurich and worked her way up to a well-paid job at David Jones.
Both worked long hours. Soon the family moved to Sydney’s more salubrious north shore, where Valerie did well at a Catholic school. We learn about her father’s spear fishing, yodelling and skiing exploits and mother’s work experiences and colleagues.
Murray became a teacher of French and German and later moved to ESL (English as a second language) because, as she notes, language teaching has not flourished in Australia. Murray has boundless admiration for her beloved and brilliant poet husband. She writes: “I have had the good fortune to spend most of my life with one of the best masters of the word anywhere.”
Life was never easy or comfortable, especially after they moved to the country to look after Les’s father. Les worked where he could and later gained income from grants, prizes and poetry reading tours. The family often travelled with some, or all, of their five children, with variable success.
Interesting digressions reflect on topics such as why so many immigrants change their names. Valerie’s given name was Valika. She notes how far advanced European doctors and dentists were in their practices in the 1950s and 60s. She describes her mother and a friend going together to have their bunions removed (so they could keep wearing fashionable shoes) and have face lifts. She frets about her ageing and fading parents and how poorly aged care homes deal with long-time immigrants, many of whom revert to their first language.
Finally, she wonders “what I might have learnt, and been, if World War II had not sent my family and me on the long road around the world”. How many of us immigrants wonder about this too?
Writer and critic Agnes Nieuwenhuizen is a first-generation immigrant.
Flight from the Brothers Grimm