Taller When Prone

Overview

A New York Times Notable Book for 2011

 

Taller When Prone is Les Murray’s first volume of new poems since The Biplane Houses, published five years ago. These poems combine a mastery of form with a matchless ear for the Australian vernacular. Many evoke rural life here and abroad—its rhythms and rituals, the natural world, the landscape and the people who have shaped it. There are traveler’s tales, elegies, meditative fragments, and satirical sketches. Above all, there is ...

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Overview

A New York Times Notable Book for 2011

 

Taller When Prone is Les Murray’s first volume of new poems since The Biplane Houses, published five years ago. These poems combine a mastery of form with a matchless ear for the Australian vernacular. Many evoke rural life here and abroad—its rhythms and rituals, the natural world, the landscape and the people who have shaped it. There are traveler’s tales, elegies, meditative fragments, and satirical sketches. Above all, there is Murray’s astonishing versatility, on display here at its exhilarating best.

Fame

We were at dinner in Soho

and the couple at the next table

rose to go. The woman paused to say

to me: I just wanted you to know

I have got all your cook books

and I swear by them!

I managed

to answer her: Ma'am

they've done you nothing but good!

which was perhaps immodest

of whoever I am.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Fans of venerable Australian poet Murray (The Biplane Houses) will find few surprises or disappointments in these two new volumes, one centered on Murray's long struggle with depression, the other largely devoted to lyrical snapshots of life Down Under. The former features a 30-page prose memoir—a candid if at times almost breezy account of his illness and its psychosocial roots (childhood guilt, social awkwardness, sexual trepidation)—followed by a selection of poems that portray the symptoms of "the victim sickness" with frightening clarity: "...the gut was a train/ crawling in its own tunnel,/ slowly dragging the nightmare/ down with it." Generally conservative in mindset and manner ("Modernism's not modern; it's police and despair"), Murray brings his signature formal discipline and brittle wit to bear on a wider range of subjects in Taller When Prone and is most musically disarming when describing everyday things, as in "Ovoids": "heads of women lovingly/ watch babies grabbing/ like unsteady moons/ in a wading pool full/ of cherry balloons." VERDICT Though Murray's imagistic energies sometimes run amok ("the galaxy, streamed like sugarbag/ in a char branch/ fronted by chinning bees") and his willfully arcane locutions ("blady-grass baulks/ mown in drought along the pond") may puzzle U.S. readers, his effort to strike an original tone within the familiar limits of English poetic traditions is laudable and, for the most part, successful.—Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY
From the Publisher
“Equipped with a fierce moral vision and a sensuous musicality . . . [Murray] writes subtly about postcolonialism, urban sprawl and poverty and, in his most intimate poems, reminds us of the power of literature to transubstantiate grievance into insight. (His admirers have argued he ought to be considered for a Nobel.) But he is equally capable of writing emotionally simplistic and strangely soured poems in which the enraged adolescent emerges all but unmediated. This mercurial doubleness can make his work hard to categorize or describe: this is a mind at once revolutionary and reactionary. Or maybe just a poet who’s willing to show more id than most.” —Meghan O'Rourke, The New York Times Book Review

 

“Mr. Murray’s verse wears, from the waist up, a cosmopolitan, Philip Larkin-like wit. From the waist down, it dresses in worn dungarees and mud-caked boots. There’s a sense of rural astringency . . . Mr. Murray employs both rhyme and meter, but variably—he’s like a man walking a large, randy, omnivorous dog on a retractable leash. He can cinch his words tightly in an instant; he owns one of poetry’s most sensitive verbal choke collars. ” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Dwight Garner
Mr. Murray's verse wears, from the waist up, a cosmopolitan, Philip Larkin-like wit. From the waist down, it dresses in worn dungarees and mud-caked boots. There's a sense of rural astringency…Taller When Prone, in terms of its subject matter, covers a lot of ground. There are poems about traveling, snoring, dead bodies, childhood consciousness, birds, motorways. Mr. Murray employs both rhyme and meter, but variably—he's like a man walking a large, randy, omnivorous dog on a retractable leash. He can cinch his words tightly in an instant; he owns one of poetry's most sensitive verbal choke collars.
—The New York Times
Meghan O'Rourke
In [Taller When Prone] we find Murray's delicate ability to evoke many kinds of experience…[it] may not be Murray's best book, but it contains a number of very fine outward-looking poems…
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374272371
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/15/2011
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Les Murray is the author of twelve books of poetry. His collection Subhuman Redneck Poems received the T. S. Eliot Prize, and in 1998 he was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, presented by Queen Elizabeth II. He lives in New South Wales, Australia.

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