There’s a resonance that exists between certain poets, and I could see that Les was decent,and kind-hearted , as well as prodigiously verbally gifted. The fact that he was supportive of me ( and many other writers) impressed me as well.
There were also some interesting parallels between us: like Les,I was a lonely, only child of Scottish descent, who had experienced early childhood poverty, loss of a mother, and the generalised dislocation of the outcast; the misfit in society. But he knew none of this . He knew absolutely nothing of my background at all ( and never was to). So how extraordinary was it that he may have intuitively connected with and related to these aspects of my being as expressed in my poems. I feel that at some sub-conscious level that he did. This may sound fanciful, I know.
After he received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1998, I began reading more of his work. I particularly love his volume Conscious and Verbal, published in 1999 by Carcanet , and a Poetry Book Society special commendation. These lines made me laugh ( from The Instrument) :
‘Poetry is read by the lovers of poetry/ and heard by some more they coax to the cafe/
or the district library for a bifocal reading.’.
It summed up the often fruitless struggle of trying to write verse and to be appreciated , if only by a very small group of people! It gave me the courage to continue. And when I finally met Les ( at a Brighton Festival reading, many years later), I asked him to sign my copy, which he generously did , with the inscription: ‘For Amanda – with cheers and encouragements, Les Murray’. I also reminded him that he had kindly published me in Quadrant some years before.
He spoke to me of his intense gratitude that he had recovered from his previous illness and coma and that he was now glad to be alive.