With native bird calls filling the air and in a library containing his own works, one of Australia’s greatest poets, Les Murray, has been farewelled in a state memorial service.
Leslie Allan Murray, known as the Bush Bard of Bunyah, died aged 80 in Taree on the NSW mid north coast on April 29.
The celebrated poet won numerous international literary awards including the Petrarch Prize and the prestigious TS Eliot Prize, and received both an Order of Australia and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.
Hundreds of people filled the State Library of NSW in Sydney to pay tribute to Australia’s unofficial Poet Laureate.
A soundscape played before and after the service on Wednesday, featuring sounds of native birds, insects and moving water, inspired by the state’s mid north coast where Murray grew up.
Held in the Mitchell Library where some of Murray’s works fill the shelves, the poet’s life was told through his own words.
Recordings of Murray reciting his poems were played, including An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow, The Smell of Coal Smoke, On Removing Spiderweb, Bats Ultrasound and The Last Hellos.
Murray’s youngest son Peter recited his father’s poem The Dream of Wearing Shorts Forever, noting that Murray was never one for formal attire – or seatbelts.
“He could never abide the idea of conformity, being trapped or pinned down by some external influence,” he said.
Fellow poets and writers including Geoffrey Lehmann, Stephen McInerney and Nikki Gemmell also read out Murray’s poetry.
Everything Murray observed was “varnished by his poetry and often his wit”, Gemmell said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Arts Minister Don Harwin attended, as did federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, Labor frontbencher Tony Burke and author Thomas Keneally.