From the archive
The Australian poet Les Murray … is a very wide, very bald man who resembles a less doleful version of Colonel Kurtz in the film “Apocalypse Now.” It is possible to imagine him having a small meal of minor critics for breakfast, as if they were kippers, and then polishing off a pile of verse novelists with his 11 a.m. tea.
As it happens, Mr. Murray also resembles James Beard, the gastronome, and has written a poem comparing the moon to a baked pig’s liver. As a boy, Mr. Murray was taunted about his weight; the subject was grim for him. So it’s a pleasure to discover, in his new collection, “Taller When Prone,” a poem called “Fame” that appears to nod with good humor in the direction of his resemblance to Beard. It begins:
We were at dinner in Soho
and the couple at the next table
rose to go. The woman paused to say
to me: I just wanted you to know
I have got all your cook books
and I swear by them!
The poem concludes:
to answer her: Ma’am
they’ve done you nothing but good!
which was perhaps immodest
of whoever I am.