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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry


Taller when Prone

Les Murray

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To purchase Taller when Prone

Title: Taller when Prone
Author: Les Murray
Genre: Poetry
Written: 2010
Length: 86 pages
Availability: Taller when Prone - US
Taller when Prone - UK
Taller when Prone - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : fine small collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Australian . 10/4/2010 Robert Gray
The Monthly . 4/2010 Clive James
The NY Rev. of Books . 29/9/2011 J.M.Coetzee
The NY Times . 9/3/2011 Dwight Garner
The NY Times Book Rev. . 3/4/2011 Meghan O’Rourke
The Observer . 21/11/2010 Kate Kellaway
Sydney Morning Herald . 26/3/2010 Andrew Riemer

  From the Reviews:
  • "There is a playfulness, like a brightly coloured thread, running through this book. Murray's exultance in language has come to the fore again (.....) The book, though, contains nothing that will rank among his best work, but neither does he seem anxious it should." - Robert Gray, The Australian

  • "He starts small. But the speed of expansion can spread sonic precision to a whole topic." - Clive James, The Monthly

  • "Murray is not a poet of the inner life. Instead he relies on an acute sensitivity to sensory impressions and an extraordinary capacity to articulate them. Taller When Prone proves that he has lost none of this power. (...) The new poems are not, in themselves, ambitious. Some are simply snapshots, records of sights that have arrested the poet in his travels. Others note, in a tone more graceful than doleful, the passing of old country ways. (...) Overall, the new poems have the feel less of urgent utterances than of demonstration exercises in how a poet’s gaze works, transforming things into likenesses." - J.M.Coetzee, The New York Review of Books

  • "Taller When Prone, in terms of its subject matter, covers a lot of ground. There are poems about traveling, snoring, dead bodies, childhood consciousness, birds, motorways. Mr. Murray employs both rhyme and meter, but variably — he’s like a man walking a large, randy, omnivorous dog on a retractable leash. He can cinch his words tightly in an instant; he owns one of poetry’s most sensitive verbal choke collars. (...) An autumnal sense of the world creeps into Taller When Prone." - Dwight Garner, The New York Times

  • "However powerful some of the Black Dog poems are, there is a relief in turning from them to Taller When Prone, a collection of new poems. In it we find Murray’s delicate ability to evoke many kinds of experience. (...) Taller When Prone may not be Murray’s best book, but it contains a number of very fine outward-looking poems" - Meghan O’Rourke, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Murray has a gentle way with his poems, letting them go, never forcing a conclusion. One of his great gifts is that he is non-interventionist, never blocks a view -- art in apparent artlessness." - Kate Kellaway, The Observer

  • "Taller When Prone bubbles with all manner of curious phraseology and recondite information, the startling juxtaposition of the commonplace and the arcane. (...) How does this collection stack up against Murray's earlier work ? It is too soon to tell: poetry needs to mature in the reader's mind and imagination." - Andrew Riemer, Sydney Morning Herald

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.

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The complete review's Review:

       Taller when Prone offers an assortment of poems, ranging from small scenes ('At the Opera') and the anecdotal to the list of word-definitions of 'Infinite Anthology' to city-impressions ('Visiting Geneva'; New York's Wall Street, without Arturo Di Modica's bronze bull (perhaps he was looking in the wrong place ?)).
       The poems range from the straightforward -- most entertainingly in 'Fame', where a woman comes up to Murray in a restaurant and tells him: "I just wanted you to know / I have got all your cook books / and I swear by them !" -- to the more linguistically involuted, as in 'Midwinter Kangaroo Nests':

Breath-chaff gets coughed
and dog-drowners tall as khaki
rise in forest that has been
sky-suspended all day.
       Often he's at his best at his rawest here, as in 'King Lear had Alzheimer's', which begins:
The great feral novel
every human is in
is ruthless. It exists
to involve and deflate.
It is the meek talking.
       And there are genuinely moving passages, as in 'Science Fiction' with its "the nothing that can hurt us".
       A somewhat unfocused and loose collection, Taller when Prone doesn't have the sustained power of some of Murray's collections. Still, it's a solid lot, with several superior (and quite a few enjoyable) pieces.

- M.A.Orthofer, 20 December 2010

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Taller when Prone: Reviews: 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

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About the Author:

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

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© 2010-2011 the complete review

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