Sunday, November 04, 2007

Les is more

Feeling too lazy to put up an actual post, so as a special treat, here are a couple of extracts from Les Murray's new collection, The Biplane Houses:

The Kitchen Grammars

The verb in a Sanscrit or Farsi
or Latin or Japanese sentence
most frequently comes last,
as if the ingredients and spices
only after collection, measure and
even preservation might get cooked.
To all these cuisines renown attaches.

It's the opening of a Celtic sentence
is a verb. And it was more fire and pot
for us very often than ingredients.
Had we not fed our severed heads on poetry
final might have been our fame's starvation.
Upholding cuisines for us are the French
to be counting in scores and called Gallic.

In English and many more, in Chinese
the verb surrounds itself nucleus-fashion
with its subjects and qualifiers.
Down every slope of the wok they go
to the spitting middle, to be sauced,
ladled, lidded, steamed, flipped back up,
becoming verbs themselves often

and the calm egg centres the meatloaf.


from The Nostril Songs

The kingdom of ghosts
has two nostril doors
like the McDonald's symbol.

You are summoned to breathe
the air of another time
that is home, that is desperate,
the tinctures, the sachets.

You yourself are a ghost.
If you were there
you are still there -

even if you're alive
out in the world of joking.


When I was pregnant,
says your sister, my nose
suddenly went acute:
I smelled which jars and cartons
were opened, rooms away,
which neighbours were in oestrus,
that approach of death in sweat.
I smelled termites in house-framing
all through a town, that mealy taint.
It all became as terrible
as completely true gossip
would be. Then it faded,
as if my baby had learned
enough, and stopped its
strange unhuman education.


from Twelve Poems

Lying back so smugly
phallic, the ampersand
in the deckchair of itself.


Creek pools, grown top-heavy,
are speaking silver-age verse
through their gravel beards.


A spider walking
in circles is celebrating
the birthday of logic.


Space Bar said...

I was going to ask you, one of these days, why there's no Murray on Poitre.

Falstaff said...

space bar: A very good question. And one you should ask friend Equivocal, who promised us Murray poems but is yet to deliver.

To be fair, I have one stored away in my drafts waiting to be recorded as well, but just haven't got around to it. Also, reading this month's issue of Poetry made me realize that we don't have any Pope on the site (horrors!) so that's currently my number one priority.

Space Bar said...

I was going to say Friend Equivocal is being stragely silent but he preempted me (on mail, at least). Perhaps that means he will do all the other things he's promised.

btw, didn't i mail you some recordings of some poems? not in my voice, but links to recordings. morgan and paterson definitely, as i remember.

equivocal said...

Thank you kindly for this, Falsie, for as you can guess I don't have The Biplane Houses. As you can see, Murray has been making English foreign to itself for several years. What is fascinating to learn with each new book is that he's only getting weirder and more playful.

Friend, roman and countryman Equivocal will attend shortly to the Murray posts; though he would wish to do so with the assistance of Murray's voice? In the mean time, he needs to take a few swift steps to ensure he doesn't lose his dayjob, his source of light and income.

Falstaff said...

equivocal: You're welcome. I thought you'd enjoy it. You can find some other poems from the book here

I don't know about Murray getting weirder / more playful - I'd say Biplane Houses is probably less playful than Subhuman Redneck (which is the most recent book of his I've read). I wouldn't say the poems here are representative, btw, I'm deliberately picking some of the weirder ones (okay, so I left out the one with the line about how we are money's genitals, but you know).

Cheshire Cat said...

Murray isn't a good reader of his own work. Surely there do exist poems that demand to be read silently.

equivocal said...

Cat-- of course there are. They're called visual or concrete poems. Well, most of them demand to be read silently at least.

I happen to differ with you significantly on the question of Murray as performer. When did you see him read? He may be getting older.

Cheshire Cat said...

Equivocal, I can see you're a extremist on the question of reading poetry aloud :) Well, so am I, so we're agreed.

I heard Murray read a couple of times when he was in Chennai last December. He seemed rather unenthused by the whole exercise; his flat, monotonous delivery didn't help. Murray claims he's semi-autistic, and this would certainly excuse a lack of performing ability... But maybe it was just an act; you can never tell with poets.

equivocal said...

Ah, I see-- well perhaps he was tired. TS Eliot was supposed to be a rapping wonder in his early years. I have a late recording of him doing Prufrock where he apologises that "I'm a little old and it will take a little while to get the engine running."

I've never seen Murray live, but I have a fantastic recording of him doing 55 poems that came with the Australian edition of the Collected Poems, and I play from it regularly for students, who don't know much about poetry, who love it. Hopefully it will be possible to make a couple of poems from it online. The reading is anything but monotonous. And Murray is, of course, excellent as a sound poet.