Australian Literary Giant Les Murray Dies Aged 80

April 29, 2019 Updated: April 29, 2019

Literary giant and Australian poet Les Murray has died on the NSW mid north coast.

Australian literary giant Les Murray has died on the NSW mid north coast aged 80.

Leslie Allan Murray, known as the Bush Bard of Bunyah, was Australia’s unofficial Poet Laureate.

He is one of the nation’s most celebrated poets, winning many literary awards including the Grace Level Prize, the Petrarch Prize and the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize.

In 1999 he was awarded the Queens Gold Medal for Poetry.

Murray was born in Nabiac on the state’s mid north coast and grew up on a hard scrabble dairy farm in Bunyah. His time in the Australian bush and Bunyah specifically featured prominently in his poetry.

His mother died from an ectopic pregnancy when he was 12.

According to The Steel, one of his angriest and most moving poems, her death may have been avoided if the local doctor hadn’t initially refused to authorise an ambulance.

Despite an interrupted schooling, he made it to Sydney University where he didn’t quite finish a degree. He dropped out for a time with a nervous breakdown. He hung out with other future writers like Geoffrey Lehmann and Clive James, wrote poetry and read voraciously.

He was also a natural linguist, which enabled him to get a job as a translator at the Australian National University.

In 1962 he married Valerie Morelli, becoming a Catholic in the process. They had five children.

Murray published his first book of poetry, which was a joint collection with Lehmann, in 1965.

He took his family to Britain and Europe in 1967 for two years and on his return to Sydney finally completed his arts degree while having his first sole-authored collection, The Weatherboard Cathedral, published.

Murray was editor of Poetry Australia from 1973 until 1980.