I’m sad that Les Murray has died. I like his poetry a great deal, and he’s one of those poets who always comes across (in interviews as well as in his poems), as someone with a huge degree of natural sympathy. I would have liked to have met him. I never did, but my younger brother Ben, when he was fifteen, went to a reading he gave in the late nineties, and afterwards queued to buy his Collected Poems. Handing the book over to be signed, the following exchange took place (as reported to me by Ben), which also inspires me with very deep affection for the pair of them:
LES MURRAY: Thanks for buying the book, mate. Who shall I sign it to?
BEN WOMACK: Erm, Ben Womack?
LM: And what about your girlfriend?
LM: Come on, fine upright lad like yourself, you must have a girlfriend.
BW [he does not have a girlfriend]: Erm, yes, yes I do.
LM: Well, what’s her name, then?
BW [panicky, trying to think of a name, any name]: Erm … erm … Er … Norfolk?
LM: Norfolk? You sure?
BW [can’t back out now]: Yes, that’s right. Norfolk. That’s her name.
LM: Alright. Here you go. Good on you.
The proof, sweetly, is below.