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Poems the Size of Photographs Hardcover – April 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

A fad-averse contrarian, Murray has made his career writing poems about the poor, rural backwaters in New South Wales, where he was born and where he still lives. His usual fixations—with aboriginal culture, with farms, with his painful childhood (he was mercilessly teased for being fat; his mother died unexpectedly)—here give way to a more philosophical exploration of the illustrative power of words, producing poetry concerned with "international sign-code," "pictographs," and "speech balloons." These poems are brief enough to suggest that a word is worth a thousand photographs, and yield some of Murray's most lasting pastoral images: "Sheep are like legal wigs / the colour of fissured cement." At Iguassu Falls, "a bolt of live tan water / is continuously tugged / off miles of table / by thunderous white claws." Murray's punchy polemical side is in evidence, too. "I feel no need to interpret it / as if it were art," he writes of an empty but beautiful landscape. "Too much / of poetry is criticism now." "In a Time of Cuisine" is a mere four lines long: "A fact the gourmet / euphemism can't silence: / vegetarians eat sex, / carnivores eat violence."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

From Booklist

In his eleventh book, renowned Australian poet Murray concentrates his muscular style, passion for landscape, and satirical humor into short and pithy poems. Tightly framed, most can be taken in at a glance, and yet, like developing photographs, they fully disclose their finer details and nuances more slowly. Murray begins with a mischievous tribute to the "new hieroglyphics," the international symbols of airports and restaurants, pictographs of the forbidden and the required. The contrasts between words and images intrigue Murray and inform his sly, sometimes startling, always colorful and animated lyrics, yarns, and epigrams. Murray relishes the Australian vernacular and displays a fondness for shade and shadows, a delight in lightning, a love for trees, and a mix of admiration for and fear of sheer rocky cliffs and the boiling sea. Irony surfaces in brief glimpses into colonialism, politics, and war, while complex memories of life before electricity, let alone electronics, are conveyed in remarkably expressive poetic shorthand. In sum, Murray's antipodal voice is droll, foxy, and delectable. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374235201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374235208
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.6 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,463,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Les Murray is an iconoclast poet. His style is very much his own and while his precedents are apparent in ee cummings, John Berryman, and even Gerard Manley Hopkins, his voice remains one of a singer on the plains of the Australian landscape. This collection of short poems forces him (by choice) into brevity and for him this is not an easy assignment. Each poem is indeed like a photograph of a captured thought or sight or flight of fancy that he then gives to us as though we are in his darkroom, watching the meanings alter with each bath solution. Example:
"THE MEANING OF EXISTENCE Everything except language/knows the meaning of existence./Trees, plants, rivers, time/know nothing else. They express it/moment by moment as the universe. //
Even this fool of a body/lives it in part, and would/have full dignity within it/but for the ignorant freedom/of my talking mind." Terse, funny, touching, self critical.....this is a warm little volume of beautifully wrought poems. Makes you want more.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By I X Key on March 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This sells so much less than his selected poems, it's absurd. It's not as if the selected poems is the only worthwhile writing of his. The sounds of this book are intense, so great; from the beginning all the way though, he has a powerful ear. & the thoughts & poetry his mind offers in this book are so crazy. It often flirts with nature poetry, but it is not nature poetry (don't worry). It's very modern. It's smart, & pretty carefree, also with some autobiographical little poems & Australian mythology. I learned that some of these are autobiographical from a reading of his I attended recently. These poems are, in fact, even much cooler than I was able to tell at the reading. I wouldn't say he's one of the greatest living masters by any means, but this is fun writing. You should read this. You'll like it. It won't take long.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Munn on September 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought a used copy for cheap as I needed the book for my English class. I expected it to be beaten and old, with the jacket torn if it still even had its original covering. But what I got was a book in great condition. It looked completely new, and every page was straight and clean. It also came in really fast.
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