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This review is taken from PN Review 44, Volume 11 Number 6, July - August 1985.

MURRAYLAND Les Murray, The People's Otherworld (Angus and Robertson) £5.95

This is Les Murray's seventh book of verse, not counting The Vernacular Republic (1977; second edition 1981), a 'collected poems' which appeared when he was forty. Murray is prolific, and the British edition of The Vernacular Republic (1982), like the second Australian edition, was expanded by eighteen poems, poems which form the first third of this new, Australian volume. The characteristic Murray themes are all present. He has always written well about men and their machines. His nature, the tree-filled bush, often has a man in its midst, chain-saw in hand, clearing the land for a farm. Murray grew up on a dairy farm, and has written repeatedly about that experience. The Murray dairymen are invoked, as individuals and as part of his clan, with all their love for the land. The concatenation family/farm/nature runs throughout his poems, which come now to modify each other, and make a kind of Murray territory as recognizable as Frost's New England. Murray's delight in his pioneer heroes expresses itself in a yarn about a telegraphist performing a surgical operation according to instructions sent in Morse by a doctor 'a thousand miles of wire' away. For the most part this is an optimistic - and often a funny - collection. Some of the optimism depends upon Murray's Catholicism, which pervades his writing, and seems to provide him with a satisfactory answer to his questions about justice.

The central poem of this book is 'The Steel', a long autobiographical meditation dedicated to ...


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