Sunday, September 13, 2009

Les Murray on NPR (see, guys, I'm not crazy)


Those of us fortunate to have had extraordinary experiences are grateful from time to time to be reminded that it wasn't a dream and we aren't crazy.

A number of friends called to my attention today that the great Austalian poet Les Murray was being featured on NPR here in St. Louis, where I live. These are all people associated in some way with the arts org Poetry Scores, which I direct, and which this year is putting to music and hosting an Art Invitational around a poem by Les Murray.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that my friends take me at my word when I tell them how wonderful and world-famous Les is, and how privileged I feel to know him personally and to have spent a day recording him reading his work, but seeing Les profiled on NPR did lend some external reality to my ravings.

The show is "To the Best of Our Knowledge" on Wisconsin Public Radio - the link takes you to the program with Les, who appears at the very end of it. He in interviwed quite ably by Steve Paulson, who also helps my cause with my friends by saying Les "is considered by many literary critics to be the greatest living poet in English today".

See, guys, just like I was saying!

In the segment, Les reads four poems ("Post-Mortem," "The Kitchen Grammars," "Church" and "The Blueprint") from his latest book of poetry, The Bi-Plane Houses, and yarns as only Les can about poetry, poverty, religion, depression, the death of his parents, and sex.

Some choice bits.

On his reportedly "poor, humble" beginnings:

"Poor people - not humble. The broder Scots have never been humble - I give you Richard Nixon - but they have on occasion been poor."

On having hard-luck parents:

"It made me distrustful of the world - the bad was likely to happen."

On the theology of Calvinism:

"It's a nice day, and we'll pay for it."

On the death of his mother during a miscarriage:

"It gave me a fear of sex because it kills you and other people die off it, you don't want to cause their deaths."

On depression:

"I call it the poet's flu."

On writing through depression:

"I tell it, 'black dog, you bastard, you make me cry, I make you sing.'"

On the equality of poetry:

"The animals are alive as the people and everything has an equality about it. it's not a class system, in a poem. Not in one of mine, anyway."


Also featured on it: Patricia Smith, Jay Parini and Gioia Timpanelli. Les is last to appear on the program.

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Pic from Jemimah Kuhfeld's Poet Project.

2 comments:

Journey said...

love les murray and loved his interview. what a charming poet!

Confluence City said...

Thanks, Journey.