The Meaning of Existence
Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.
Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.1
Leslie (Les) Allan Murray AO entered Buckingham Palace in a big dark suit and waistcoat. The baggy striped jumpers and comfy slacks so familiar to his admirers had been cast aside for the engagement, but not the Aussie ruralite’s cordiality. He beamed as Her Majesty presented him with the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.2
Les was born in Nabiac on 17 October 1938, raised on a dairy farm in Bunyah, and attended Taree High School.3 He later graduated from the University of Sydney with an arts degree.4 His desire to become a poet surfaced one evening at eighteen while watching mayflies on the Coolongolook River.5
The Bulletin published his first poem in 1961.6 And in 1965, his first book emerged.7 Throughout his career, Les saw almost thirty volumes of poetry published, winning several international literary awards.8 Many poems featured his time in the Australian bush and Bunyah.
He and his family moved to the Murray farm in 1985.9 Then, the Bush Bard of Bunyah, as he became known, found himself holding a prestigious medal and Her Majesty grinning back at him – a decade after receiving an Order of Australia in 1989 and two years after becoming a National Living Treasure.10 The celebrated poet died in Taree on 29 April 2019.11
Author: Kaylah McGilvray
1 Les Murray, ‘The Meaning of Existence’, https://www.best-poems.net/les_murray/the_meaning_of_existence.html
2 Michael Schmidt. The Guardian, Les Murray obituary, 2 May 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/may/01/les-murray-obituary
3 Schmidt, 2019.
4 Dominica Sanda and Don Woolford. Manning River Times, Australian literary giant Les Murray dies, 29 April 2019, https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/6096464/australian-literary-giant-les-murray-dies/
5 The Economist, Obituary: Les Murray died on April 29th, 9 May 2019, https://www.economist.com/obituary/2019/05/09/obituary-les-murray-died-on-april-29th
6 The Economist, 2019.
7 Sanda and Woolford, 2019.
8 Heather McNab. The Canberra Times, Acclaimed poet Les Murray farewelled, 12 June 2019,https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6214455/acclaimed-poet-les-murray-farewelled/; Sanda and Woolford, 2019; Belinda Kontominas and Stephanie Tiller. ABC News, Australian poet Les Murray dies at 80, 29 April 2019,https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-29/les-murray-australian-poet-dies-aged-80/11055966
9 Kontominas and Tiller, 2019.
10 National Trust. ‘National Living Treasures.’ Internet Archive, https://web.archive.org/web/20140919173538/http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/nsw/NationalLivingTreasures; Schmidt, 2019.
11 McNab, 2019.