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This review is taken from PN Review 167, Volume 32 Number 3, January - February 2006.

YAKKERS AND THEIR YARNS THE BEST AUSTRALIAN POEMS 2004, edited by Les Murray (Black Inc.) $24.95

Australians tend to be yakkers. They can talk and talk about most anything - although the Great Outdoors and Sport are usually near the top of the agenda. Per capita, Australia is supposedly the most successful sporting nation in the world. They do like being the best. Which brings us to The Best Australian Poems 2004. This anthology is editor Les Murray's Olympic Squad, and just about all of the poets are yakkers; there are stories - or 'yarns' as they're called locally - aplenty within these mute orange covers.

The vast majority of the anthology's 126 poems (by as many poets) are narrative or character-based. The book aims, in classic Murray fashion, to 'please the common reader, that ideal civilian who luckily resides outside poetry circles and isn't beholden to us or set to police us'. This lively survey also presents an intriguing portrait-at-one-remove of the editor himself - not only as he is revealed in his introduction but as his priorities are played out through the selection.

Les Murray is himself a poet of the known or knowable world, avoiding not only the obfuscated but also the new-fangled and, it follows, what he calls 'that wicked CIA technology', the Internet. In recent decades he has come to embody something of an Australian archetype: he is bright, straight-forward, common-sensical if a little mystical; a liberal conservative; a bush-whacker who is also a walking encyclopedia.

Murray has ...


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