×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Taller When Prone: Poems
  • Alternative view 1 of Taller When Prone: Poems
  • Alternative view 2 of Taller When Prone: Poems
     

Taller When Prone: Poems

by Les Murray
 

See All Formats & Editions

"Les Murray has earned his reputation not only as one of Australia's finest writers but as one of the most engaging poets writing in English today." Kate Kellaway, The Observer (London)

Taller When Prone is Les Murray's first volume of new poems since The Biplane Houses, published in 2007. These poems combine a mastery of form

Overview

"Les Murray has earned his reputation not only as one of Australia's finest writers but as one of the most engaging poets writing in English today." Kate Kellaway, The Observer (London)

Taller When Prone is Les Murray's first volume of new poems since The Biplane Houses, published in 2007. These poems combine a mastery of form with a matchless ear for the Australian vernacular. Many evoke rural life in Australia and elsewhere—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.

"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

Editorial Reviews

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374533083
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
02/28/2012
Pages:
96
Product dimensions:
5.51(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.28(d)

Read an Excerpt

Taller When Prone

Poems


By Les Murray

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2010 Les Murray
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-9476-1



CHAPTER 1

    From a Tourist Journal

    In a precinct of liver stone, high
    on its dais, the Taj seems bloc hail.

    We came to Agra over honking roads
    being built under us, past baby wheat
    and undoomed beasts and walking people.
    Lorries shouldered white marble loads.

    Glamour of ads demeaned street life
    in the city; many buildings were
    held aloft with liverwurst mortar.
    I have not left the Taj Mahal.

    Camels were lozenge-clipped like rug pile
    and workhorses had kept their stallionhood
    even in town, around the Taj wall.
    Anglos deny theirs all Bollywood.

    On Indian streets, tourists must still
    say too much no, and be diminished.
    Pedlars speak of it to their lit thumbs.
    I have not left the Taj Mahal.

    Poor men, though, in Raj-time uniforms:
    I'd felt that lure too, and understood.
    In Delhi, we craned up at a sky-high
    sandstone broom cinched with balustrades.

    Schoolkids from Nagaland posed with us
    below it, for their brag books, and new cars
    streamed left and right to the new world,
    but from Agra Fort we'd viewed, through haze,

    perfection as a factory making depth,
    pearl chimneys of the Taj Mahal.


    Bluelookout Mountain

    Bluelookout is a tractor climb
    to where you see the South Pacific.
    The animals who stay
    up there don't know to see it.

    Bluelookout is the colours and smooth
    texture of forest pigeons
    though it's 'dirty' in some folds
    with scrub the old ones would have burnt.

    Grasses of exotic green
    radiate down its ridge lines
    just how snow would lie

    and the owner's house snuggles
    in close, not for shelter
    but out of all the view.


Note: the spelling Bluelookout as one word with the accent on the first
syllable reflects local pronunciation.



    The Sharman Drum

    What year was the very best Mallee Show?
    When Lord Hopetoun attended, that bottled year?
    When Skuthorpe danced his horse for some peer,
    Lord Brassicae? Or was it Brassey?
    and Sunshine harvesters turned into Massey –
    No no, what year? I need to hear.
    When the Wallup Pipe Band piped music and rum
    and Jim Sharman's pugs beat the step-up drum
    and ladies dressed up their skills and tone
    or dressed for each other, or themselves alone,
    when the ticket strung through the tweedy eye
    of each member's lapel meant pedigree –
    What year, what year? It was every year
    after the last. They made a past,
    the ring events, the Wyandotte hens
    the marble cakes in their ribboned pens.
    What year was the greatest Mallee Show?
    When Warracknabeal yachts sailed on Lake Glue,
    bagging needles flew and girth straps strained.
    The best show was any year it rained!


    The Toppled Head

    A big bald head is asleep
    like Lenin on a pavement.
    Tipping backward, it starts
    a great mouth-breathing snore
    throttling as stormwater,
    loud as a hangar door
      running on rails
    but his companion gently
    reshapes his pillow, till his
    position's once more foetal,
    breathing toward his feet.
    His timbre goes silent, and
    the glottal dies in a gulp.


    Definitions

    Effete: a pose
    of palace cavalry officers
    in plum Crimean fig,
    spurs and pointed boots,

    not at all the stamp
    of tight-buttoned guards
    executing arm-geometry
    in the shouting yards,

    but sitting his vehicle
    listening to tanks change gears
    amid oncoming fusiliers
    one murmurs the style

    that has carried his cohort
    to this day, and now will test them:
    You have to kill them, Giles,
    You can't arrest them.



    The Conversations

    A full moon always rises at sunset
    and a person is taller at night.
    Many fear their phobias more than death.
    The glass King of France feared he'd shatter.
    Chinese eunuchs kept their testes in spirit.

    Your brain can bleed from a sneeze-breath.
    A full moon always rises at sunset
    and a person is taller when prone.
    Donald Duck was once banned in Finland
    because he didn't wear trousers,

    his loins were feather-girt like Daisy's
    but no ostrich hides its head in sand.
    The cure for scurvy was found
    then long lost through medical theory.
    The Beginning is a steady white sound.

    The full moon rises at sunset
    and lemurs and capuchin monkeys
    pass a millipede round to get off on
    its powerful secretions. Mouthing it
    they wriggle in bliss on the ground.

    The heart of a groomed horse slows down.
    A fact is a small compact faith,
    a sense-datum to beasts, a power to man
    even if true, even while true –
    we read these laws in Isaac Neurone.

    One woman had sixty-nine children.
    Some lions mate fifty times a day.
    Napoleon had a victory addiction.
    A full moon always rises at sunset.
    Soldiers now can get in the family way.


    The Double Diamond

    He was the family soldier,
    deadly marksman on tropic steeps.

    Home, he spurned the drunk heir-splitting
    of working for parents, and stayed poor

    on share farm after fence-sagging share farm.
    Goodbye! yelled the kids to new friends.

    Slim sang his songs, and his kind
    wife's skin was sensitive to gossip.

    Over eighty, he stands in his suit
    outside where she, quick-spoken Alice

    lies tight-packed in varnished timber.
    As the family gather, he tells me

    Late years, I've lived at the hospital.
    Now I'll forget the way there.



    As Country Was Slow

    for Peter

    Our new motorway
    is a cross-country fort
    and we reinforcements
    speed between earthworks
    water-sumps and counterscarps,
    breaking out on wide glimpses,
    flying the overpasses –

    Little paper lanterns
    march up and down dirt,
    wrapped round three chopsticks
    plastic shrub-guards grow bushes
    to screen the real bush,
    to hide the old towns
    behind sound-walls and green –

    Wildlife crossings underneath
    the superglued pavement
    are jeep size; beasts must see
    nature restart beyond.
    The roads are our nature
    shining beyond delay,
    fretting to race on –

    Any check in high speed
    can bleed into gravel
    and hang pastel wreaths
    over roadside crosses.
    Have you had your scare yet? –
    It made you a driver
    not an ever-young name.

    We're one Ireland, plus
    at least six Great Britains
    welded around Mars
    and cross-linked by cars –
    Benzene, diesel, autobahn:
    they're a German creation,
    these private world-splicers.

    The uncle who farmed our place
    was an Arab of his day
    growing fuel for the horses
    who hauled the roads then.
    1914 ended that. Will I
    see fuel crops come again?
    I'll ride a slow vehicle

    before cars are slow
    as country was slow.


    The Death of Isaac Nathan, 1864

    Stone statues of ancient waves
    tongue like dingoes on shore
    in time with wave-glitter on the harbour
    but the shake-a-leg chants of the Eora

    are rarely heard there any more
    and the white man who drew their nasals
    as footprints on five-lined paper
    lies flat away up Pitt Street,

    lies askew on gravel Pitt Street.
    Jumping off startled horses come men
    and other men down off the horse-tram
    which ladies stay aboard and cram

    their knuckles in their teeth, because a
    grandson of the last king of Poland
    is lying behind the rear wheels,
    lying in his blood and his music sheets

    where he missed his step and fell
    to be Sydney tramways' first victim.
    Byron's Hebrew melodist, driven
    out of London by Lord Melbourne,

    by the inked horns of Lord Melbourne,
    is now being lifted tenderly,
    he, the Anglican who used
    to pray wrapped in a white shawl

    is being wrapped in a tarpaulin
    and carried in catch-up cadence
    with crotchets he might have scored,
    carried over streets to his residence

    to lie in state on his table:
    Our Father and Melech ha-olam,
    then to go in a bourdon to Newtown
    and sleep near the real Miss Havisham.


    The Filo Soles

    When tar roads came
    in the barefoot age
    crossing them was hell
    with the sun at full rage.
    Kids learned to dip
    their feet in the black
    and quench with dust,
    dip again, and back
    in the dust, to form
    a dark layered crust
    and carry quick soles
    over the worst
    annealing their leather
    though many splash scornfully
    across, to flayed ground.


    Midi

    Muscles and torsoes of cloud
    ascended over the mountains.
    The fields looked like high speed
    so new-mown was the hay,

    then the dark blue Italian lavender
    met overhead, a strange maize
    deeply planted as mass javelins
    in the hoed floor of the land.

    Insects in plastic armour stared
    from their turrets, and munched
    as others machined stiffly over us
    and we turned, enchanted
    in sweet walling breath
    under far-up gables of the lavender.


    Observing the Mute Cat

    Clean water in the house
    but the cat laps up clay water
    outside. Drinking the earth.

    His pile, being perfect,
    ignores the misting rain.

    A charcoal Russian
    he opens his mouth like other cats
    and mimes a greeting mew.

    At one bound top-speed across
    the lawn and halfway up
    the zippy pear tree. Why? Branches?
    Stopping puzzles him.

    Eloquent of purr
    or indignant tail
    he politely hates to be picked up.
    His human friend never does it.

    He finds a voice
    in the flyscreen, rattling it,
    hanging cruciform on it,
    all to be let in
    to walk on his man.

    He can fish food pellets
    out of the dispenser, but waits,
    preferring to be served.

    A mouse he was playing
    on the grass ran in under him.
    Disconsolate, at last he wandered
    off – and drew and fired
    himself in one motion.

    He is often above you
    and appears where you will go.

    He swallows his scent, and
    discreet with his few stained birds
    he carries them off to read.


    Buttress on a High Cutting

    Angophora, rusty-shelled
    tree without a deep hold
    but when its hill split,
    this side root, jutting
    out into sun glare
        bent
    and flowed down, tight
    as mailbag wax, rain
    year by drought year
    to the new ground level
    buttressing its trunk still
    in high bush overhead
        far
    above blue roadbed
    and palm-tree eruptions,
    this pirouette of wood-
    coated trouserleg, taller
    than its many-buckled man.


    Ovoids

    Moist black as sago pearls
    in white Chinese tea
    heads of women lovingly
    watch babies grabbing
    like unsteady moons
    in a wading pool full
    of cherry balloons.
    Cushions and knees
    and round toes in grass
    under tropic leaves
    the scented sweet
    skin glazed in sweat –
    all snapped from above in
    the aqueous ovarian.


    Nursing Home

    Ne tibi supersis:

    don't outlive yourself,
    panic, or break a hip
    or spit purée at the staff
    at the end of gender,
    never a happy ender –

    yet in the pastel light
    of indoors, there is a lady
    who has distilled to love
    beyond the fall of memory.

    She sits holding hands
    with an ancient woman
    who calls her brother and George
    as bees summarise the garden.


    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.


    Cattle-Hoof Hardpan

    Trees from modern times don't bear
    but the old China pear
    still standing in the soil
    of 1880 rains fruit.


    Phone Canvass

    Chatting, after the donation part,
    the Blind Society's caller
    answered my shy questions:

    '... and I love it on the street,
    all the echo and air pressure,
    people in my forehead and
    metal stone brick, the buildings
    passing in one side of my head ...

    I can hear you smiling.'


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Taller When Prone by Les Murray. Copyright © 2010 Les Murray. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Les Murray is the author of many books of poetry. His collection Subhuman Redneck Poems received the T. S. Eliot Prize in 1996, 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.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews