Les Murray grew up on his grandfather's small dairy farm in the close-knit Presbyterian community of Bunyah and attended area schools before matriculating to Sydney University in 1957. Pursuing his interest in modern poetry, Murray edited university magazines and submitted poetry to a number of periodicals. Despite discontinuing his studies in 1960 he continued to write and publish poetry and maintained contact with university friends such as Geoffrey Lehmann and Bob Ellis.
In 1961 Murray hitch-hiked around Australia, returning to Sydney in 1962 when he married Valerie Gina Morelli. He moved to Canberra in 1963 and worked as a translator of Western European Languages at the Australian National University until 1967. After travelling in Europe Murray returned to Sydney in 1969, completed his B.A. degree and published his first solo book of verse. Murray decided to become a freelance writer in 1971 after a brief period in the public service. Since that time Murray has served as editor of Poetry Australia (1973-1979), poetry editor of Angus and Robertson (1976-1990) and, since 1990, literary editor of Quadrant. He has received numerous grants and fellowships and has held appointments as writer-in-residence at several universities as well as working as a reviewer and columnist for newspapers and journals.
Les Murray has received international recognition unprecedented for an Australian poet and his work has been widely published in Europe and North America and translated into a number of other languages. He is a prolific writer whose oeuvre comprises a wide range of literary forms including lyric and narrative poetry, song cycles, verse novels , essays, social commentary and literary criticism. His poetry is impressive for its technical brilliance, its remarkable linguistic inventiveness and its exploration of rich and diverse themes. His commitment to bush values, which often portrays the city as corrupt, continues a tradition that descends from the nationalism of the 1890s. Consistent pre-occupations in his work are a pride in his Gaelic, pioneering ancestry, deeply-held Christian beliefs, respect and affection for the Australian character, particularly in its laconic 'quality of sprawl', the importance of the land as a spirit country and the dignity and wisdom of the ordinary person - reflected in the titles of some of his published volumes (The Peasant Mandarin, The Weatherboard Cathedral, The Vernacular Republic) and captured in poems such as 'The Mitchells'. A nationalist and republican, he sees his writing as helping to define, in cultural and spiritual terms, what it means to be Australian (Peter Alexander, Encyclopedia of World Biography. New York: McGraw Hill, 1992).
In 1974 Murray secured a forty acre selection block just a few miles from where he spent his boyhood. He moved there with his family in 1986; The Idyll Wheel reflects his sense of joyful renewal at this return to his what he describes as the 'country ...[of my] mind' ('Evening Alone at Bunyah'). Murray continues to live in Bunyah.
Les Murray was made an honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1999. He has received an honorary D. Litt. from the University of New England and is a member of the Order of Australia.
'Les Murray's new volume of poems – his first in five years – continues his use of molten language. From 'The Black Beaches' to 'Radiant Pleats, Mulgoa', from 'High Speed Trap Space' to 'The Electric, 1960', this is verse that renews and transforms our sense of the world.
''No poet has ever travelled like this, whether in reality or simply in mind … Seeing the shape or hearing the sound of one thing in another, he finds forms'—Clive James, The Monthly'
Taller When Prone2010selected work poetry 'Taller When Prone is Les Murray's first volume of new poems since 2006's The Biplane Houses. With characteristic grace and dexterity, these poems combine a mastery of form with a matchless ear for the Australian vernacular. Many evoke rural life here and abroad - its rhythms and rituals, the natural world, the landscape and the people who have shaped it. There are traveller's tales, elegies, meditative fragments and satirical sketches. Above all there is Murray's astonishing versatility, on display here at its exhilarating best.' (From the publisher's website.)