Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index


to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

Translations from the
Natural World

Les Murray

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Translations from the Natural World

Title: Translations from the Natural World
Author: Les Murray
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1992
Length: 67 pages
Availability: Translations from the Natural World - US
Translations from the Natural World - UK
Also in: Collected Poems - UK

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : complex, and tough going, but often very fine

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 11/5/1993 Michael Hulse
TLS . 20/8/1993 Lachlan Mackinnon
World Lit. Today B+ Winter/1995 David Coad

  From the Reviews:
  • "Murray is wryly teasing his readers, who must actively wrestle with too many signifiers in the denser poems and translate the turgidity. This difficulty has compensations, however, and Murray's experiments with the imitative figures and tropes that he loves are exciting and fascinating." - David Coad, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       Dedicated, ambitiously, "to the glory of God" Murray's slim, dense collection is a heap to grapple with. The tripartite collection begins and ends with brief sections of four poems each. The centrepiece has forty poems, and comes with its own heading, amending the book-title to read: Presence: Translations from the Natural World. This long middle ground examines all aspects of the natural world, from Mollusc to The Octave of Elephants, from Cell DNA to Shoal.
       It is remarkable but difficult stuff. None of the direct simplicity of Fredy Neptune here. These are tightly wound, charged verses, in a rich, poetic language demanding the most from its readers.
       There is variety here, as Murray changes modes and tone. He employs rhyme, then challenges reason, always with a new trick around the corner.
       There is a pitch-perfect translation from the German, Friedrich Georg Jünger's Ultima Ratio. The rest are not as obviously "translations", as Murray employs different styles and approaches to convey the natural world and man's place in it. In the first poem of the middle section, Eagle Pair, he evokes the animals in spare and direct language:

Irritably we unshell, into feathers; we lean open and rise and magnify this meat, then that, with the eyes of our eyes.
       When he wants he can artfully convey an image ("the rebound heat ribbing up vertical rivers of air" from the same poem). Frequently, however, there are more layers to it, deeper to dig. The language is varied and consistently remarkable; Murray commands both high and low to good effect.
       The themes are large ones: Murray is a religious poet. He is also distinctly Australian -- especially in his vision and imagery. It is an unusual mix, but Murray pulls it off. Even his sentiment, such as in Home Suite ("Home is the first/ and final poem/ and every poem between"), sounds convincing.
       "(N)othing is apart enough for language", he concludes in closing the Presence sequence. His poems seem proof and vivid illustration.
       Tough going, and not easily approached these are nevertheless very worthwhile poems. A fine collection, though it might defeat as many readers as it convinces.

- Return to top of the page -


Translations from the Natural World: Les Murray: Other works by Les Murray under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Poetry at the complete review
  • See Index of Australian literature at the complete review

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Australian poet Les Murray was born in 1938. He has written numerous poetry collections, as well as two novels in verse.

- Return to top of the page -

© 1999-2010 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links