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Embodied Concepts & Grace
in Les Murray's Poetry

Les Murray's poetic implies a sacramental aesthetic, one in which poetry, like the Eucharist,exists in a state between the the literal and the metaphorical. He also holds that we experience poetry holistically, that in our bodies we partake of the truths revealed in poems. In turn, poems "embody" their truths, which suggests that they make them real--not in some kind of socially conscriptive manner but in a full way in our whole persons and cultures.  As a result, Murray's poems that deal with concepts are just as embodied as those that pay close attention to the physical world and its lyric, sensate qualities. In each case one is spelunking, so to speak, for the grace of God at work even in our "natural" experiences and ideas. The following poems are examples of conceptual verse seeking grace:

The Future

  1. How does he characterize the future? What is it not?
  2. What is Christ's role in the poem and in the future?
  3. How is the past (not) present in the poem?
  4. How do we as humans experience all this?

First Essay on Interest

  1. What does he mean by interest?
  2. How do we bodily/psychologically experience interest?
  3. What is its relationship to love and death?
  4. Why is it like oxygen?


  1. Why does the poem begin the suburbs? What do the descriptions reveal?
  2. What qualities does he assign to equanimity?
  3. What is its relationship to God, Christ, and grace?
  4. How should people then act upon equanimity?

The Quality of Sprawl

  1. What is sprawl? What do the various examples reveal about it?
  2. What qualities separate it from other similar actions/attitudes?
  3. Why is it "roughly Christian"?

The Chimes of Neverwhere

  1. What is neverwhere? Why is it important?
  2. What is its relationship to our world?
  3. What is its relationship to the Church, saints, and Christ?
  4. How should we respond to such knowledge?

The Dream of Wearing Shorts Forever

  1. Based on internal context, define the following: robes, tat, rig, and scunge.
  2. What do the four words reveal about the way we as cultures use dress/clothing?
  3. What do they suggest about human desires, aspiration, and sins?
  4. What is he finally recommending here?

Poetry and Religion

  1. What does he mean by the two title nouns?
  2. What distinguishes a "small" from a "full" religion?
  3. What is the relationship of God to poetry and religion?
  4. Why can't you "poe"a lie? Do you agree with him?

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding