Thursday, December 18, 2014

`1,025,000 Words in His Brain'

“He dwells on a poem for days, years. His genius is an ability to process the 1,025,000 words in his brain and select precisely the right one to follow the one that came before it.” 

That, among other things, is what separates us.  I remember the openings of two stories I wrote more than forty years ago. Both withered, never harvested: “No more jokes. I’ve had it with jokes.” and “A baby cried.” The former was spoken by a drunk to a wall. Something about futility. The latter was set in the balcony of a church sanctuary. Alphabetical – get it? That I remember such things and wish to share them is shameful, of course, but years of writing for newspapers set me straight. No talk of writer’s block on the city desk. “Inspiration” is your ass at the desk, writing. I most admire those writers who cultivate momentum. 

“The Asperger’s assists the process.” and “So does his humour.” 

That’s Trent Dalton in his recent profile of Les Murray, “Poet in Residence,” for The Australian. This is a splendid profile of a great poet, now seventy-six years old and still writing. In poetry and life, Murray, like Dr. Johnson, has always seemed more alive than the rest of us, forever engaging the world, with an enviably vast pool of language in his head. As to humor and cussedness, Dalton quotes Murray’s great elegy for his father, “The Last Hellos”: 

“Snobs mind us off religion
Nowdays, if they can.
Fuck them. I wish you God.” 

Dalton quotes “Home Suite,” “It Allows a Portrait in Line-Scan at Fifteen,” "The Widower in the Country"and "Weights," and tells us Murray’s new book will be titled Waiting for the Past. While reading Murray, I feel like the little girl on the cover of his Collected Poems (1998).

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