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In Waiting for the Past, Les Murray employs his molten sense of language to renew and transform our experience of the world. In quicksilver verse, he conjures his rural past, the life of the poor dairy boy in Australia, as he simultaneously feels the steady tug of aging, of time pulling him back to the present. Here, syntax, sense, and sound combine with such acrobatic grace that his poems render the familiar into the unknown, the unknown into the revelatory.
Whether it’s a boy on a walkabout hiding from grief, a sounding whale “spilling salt rain,” or leaves that “tread on the sky,” the great Australian poet’s sense of wonder, his ear for the everyday, his swiftness of thought are everywhere in these pages. As Derek Walcott said of Murray’s work, “There is no poetry in the English language now so rooted in its sacredness, so broad-leafed in its pleasures and yet so intimate and conversational.”