Home is the First and Final Poem (Review 31)

Review 31 is an online journal founded in 2011. Since then, it has gained recognition for hosting intelligent reviews of nonfiction, literary fiction, and poetry. Recently, Review 31 published my review of Les Murray’s On Bunyah (Carcanet, 2016). The article aims to create a full and coherent picture of Murray’s childhood home and his poetic responses to place.

“The rural home of poet, editor, and critic Les Murray lies around three hundred kilometres north-east of Sydney, Australia. The area known as Bunyah – a native word meaning ‘bark’ – is a hilly landscape with dense forests, expansive paddocks and farmland. Bunyah Creek, which becomes the Wang Wauk River before reaching the Pacific Ocean, cuts across this landscape and sources many of the sandy lakes characteristic of the area. The place Murray calls his ‘spirit country’ is unquestionably ‘the bush’: an area wild, undeveloped, remote, and isolated – only one gravel road runs from the Pacific Highway to Bunyah. The 82 poems and 29 photographs collected in On Bunyah give readers special access to this isolated area and makes clear its biographical and historical significances. The collection, made up of a selection of poems spanning Murray’s entire career, reveals just how Bunyah has provided the poet with the essential material of his verse for over 50 years. While On Bunyah does confirm what Murray writes in ‘Home Suite’ (originally published in 1992’s Translations from the Natural World) – ‘Home is the first / and final poem / and every poem between / has this mum home seam’ – it also does these poems an immense disservice: it presents them in a manner too careless to be worthy of their particular expressiveness and craft.”

You can find the article here.


Header Image: Les Murray’s first childhood home. via ABC.net.au news

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