Australian poet Les Murray dies aged 80

The Australian poet Les Murray has died. Photo: Getty
The Australian poet Les Murray has died. Photo: Getty

BELOVED Australian poet Les Murray has died at the age of 80.

Murray, who was named by the National Trust of Australia as one of the 100 Australian Living Treasures, died at a nursing home at Taree in New South Wales.

In 1989 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia and was the literary editor of Australian magazine Quadrant from March 1990 until he stepped down late last year.

Murray published around 30 books of poetry in a career spanning almost 50 years.

Consistently touted as a potential winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Murray won multiple awards.

Among them were the Grace Level Prize, the Petrarch Prize and the prestigious TS Eliot Prize.

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

He was born in Nabiac on the state’s mid-north coast before moving to Bunyah with his parents.

His time in the Australian bush and Bunyah specifically featured prominently in his poetry.

Murray’s 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 spent time 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.