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Les Murray obituary

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Leading Australian poet whose work celebrated the rural world

Years ago I took the Australian poet Les Murray to the launch of an anthology of new poets in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. “Why,” he asked edgily as we came out, “why are they all so obedient?” As a writer, and reader, Murray, who has died aged 80, tended to be impatient with the familiar, easy, bland. He challenged poets to hear, and dare to use, the language an experience required – even if it was local, vulgar, awkward or unfamiliar.

Murray was born in Nabiac, rural New South Wales, and grew up on his father’s dairy farm at Bunyah. He minded cattle, barefoot in winter, and remembered how he got a delicious brief respite from the cold by jumping in fresh cowpats. His poems celebrate the environments of childhood, the farm and its creatures, which he loved.

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