by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Inside Teaching : October 2010
Inside Teaching | October 2010 MY BEST TEACHER 20 bit scary,’ he admits. ‘You always wonder which kids are being tormented. All you can do is show the kids you’re awake to what’s gone on.’ His advice for teachers generally? ‘Tell as much of the truth as is legal, and it’s a mistake to use a persona – kids can spot a fake a mile off.’ Talk with the man who, according to Chiasson, is ‘among the three or four leading English-language poets’ in the world, and you ought to ask about poetry. ‘I suspect the best way to teach poetry,’ says Murray, ‘is to display it or to hold competitions rather than go into analysis. If you want to destroy a subject, analyse it: rock and roll would be dead in a week.’ Murray, surprisingly, describes his poetry as pessimistic and says he is prone to dogmatism, notwithstanding the depth and breadth of the celebratory poetry he’s written. ‘Depression,’ he says, ‘has caused me to write a good narrative poem – Freddy Neptune – about a man who discovers how bad the world can be.’ How bad the world can be, it seems, lies at the heart of things for Murray. ‘Mum died of her third miscarriage,’ he says, ‘and the impact was unsuspected, but profound. I had a leaning to depression anyway, but I think I had come to the conclusion that it was my fault.’ The striking thing about our conversation, though, is that Murray speaks – of depression, autism, his mother’s death – with immense candour, yet there’s a lot more laughter than you might expect of a pessimist. Murray counts himself lucky to have had a few good teachers, but there’s one I haven’t mentioned yet: poetry itself. ‘The purpose of poetry,’ says Murray, ‘is to delight, but it’s also to work things out, about the world, and life. It’s a means of research, a way to understand things. I always found the world very mysterious.’ ■ Pictured, Les Murray at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival with facilitator Michael Duffy. Photograph by Prudence Upton courtesy of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. REFERENCES Chiasson, D. (2007). Fire down below. The New Yorker. (11 June.) Tranter, J. (1977). A warrior poet living still at Anzac Cove. The Weekend Australian. (29 January.) LINKS www.swf.org.au ‘I SUSPECT THE BEST WAY TO TEACH POETRY,’ SAYS MURRAY, ‘IS TO DISPLAY IT OR TO HOLD COMPETITIONS RATHER THAN GO INTO ANALYSIS. IF YOU WANT TO DESTROY A SUBJECT, ANALYSE IT: ROCK AND ROLL WOULD BE DEAD IN A WEEK.’