Biplane Houses by Les Murray & Collected Poems by Les Murray

Reviewed by
June-July 2006, no. 282
Lisa Gorton reviews 'Biplane Houses' and 'Collected Poems' by Les Murray

Biplane Houses

by Les Murray

Black Inc., $24.95 pb, 93 pp, 1863952144

Book Cover 2 Small

Collected Poems

by Les Murray

Black Inc., $45 pb, 577 pp, 1863952225

Biplane Houses by Les Murray & Collected Poems by Les Murray

Reviewed by
June-July 2006, no. 282

Perhaps only John Shaw Neilson and Judith Wright have brought an equal sense of place to Australian poetry: the sense of place as a fact of consciousness with geographic truth. But in his latest collection, Biplane Houses, Les Murray considers more airy habitations – flights, cliff roads and weather – and the collection has a matching airiness that is only sometimes lightness. Take his sequence, ‘Nostril Songs’, a set of poems about smells and their messages: playful, fluid with small shocks of precision. It is the longest sequence in this collection. That is to say, Biplane Houses has no sequence with the weight of Murray’s 1972 sequence, ‘Walking to the Cattle Place’ or ‘The Idyll Wheel: Cycle of a Year at Bunyah, New South Wales, April 1986–April 1987’; nothing with the reach of his 1992 sequence, ‘Presence: Translations from the Natural World’. All the same, there are poems here to equal any he has written. ‘The Welter’, for instance, which begins:

How deep is the weatherfront of time

that advances, roaring and calm

unendingly between was and will be?

A millisecond? A few hours? All secular life

worldwide, all consequences of past life

travel in it. It’s weird to move ahead of ¼

Here that word ‘weird’ helps define the character of this collection: its light touch and quizzical kind of seriousness; its sprezzatura.

It is an airiness to equal the idea of air in this collection: crowded with smells and weather and all that endures, like the past, out of reach or out of ken but, in effect, momentous:

Tropopause, stratopause, Van Allen –

high floors of the world tower

which spores and points of charge

too minute to age climb off the planet.

                                    ‘Airscapes’

Lisa Gorton reviews 'Biplane Houses' and 'Collected Poems' by Les Murray

Biplane Houses

by Les Murray

Black Inc., $24.95 pb, 93 pp, 1863952144

Book Cover 2 Small

Collected Poems

by Les Murray

Black Inc., $45 pb, 577 pp, 1863952225

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