From the volume of Australian volume of poems Taller than Prone, As Country was Slow, written by well known Australian poet Les Murray, conveys an extremely effective perspective on the concrete jungle our modern world has become. His use of emotive poetic techniques and didactic style enforces his powerful messages hidden beneath his emotive web of poetic devices. Written in 2010, the modern, relatable context of this poem based on the building of a new highway in Taree, helps to bring in the reality that with every step we take in the direction of urbanisation, brings us closer to the destruction of our world.
Life in modern society is captured in Murray’s influential point of view through his personal language and opinions. “Plastic shrub guards grow bushes/ to screen the real bush,/to hide old towns/behind sound walls and green-“, this extended metaphor linked with enjambment is effective in revealing Murray’s perspective that the huge sound walls used on highways are just excuses to block out the dying world we are hiding from; to escape the harsh reality that we have caused ourselves.
Growing up in a small, bush environment gave a preference for the peaceful rural life over the corrupting urban one, thus his strong views on the effects of environment destruction. This is reflected here, as well as all throughout the text. The poet’s personal perspective enforces his didactic style and helps to shape our understanding of our ever changing world, effectively giving us new ideas and thoughts to reflect on well after the poem is put down.
Equally important to Murray’s personal and influential perspectives, is the emotive way he presents his ideas to form this narrative poem. Metaphors provide a leading role in his poems, providing a deeper understanding on what the poet is trying to convey. For example, “Our new motorway/ is a cross-country fort/ and we reinforcements/ speed between earthworks”, gives the reader a thorough indication that the poet is strongly against the building of this local highway by powerfully relating the new highway to a military style fort, conveying a strong air of hostility and order.
Metaphors aid in turning Murray’s private world opinions on the environment into his public world poems, effectively conveying his ideas clearly to the modern world around us. Allusion is also used effectively to convey Murray’s message of progress to the readers, helping to bring a touch of reality into the poem. The reference to “Arab” in, “the uncle who farmed our place/ was an Arab of his day/ growing fuel or the horses/ who hauled the roads” relates to the ‘Mideast Oil Crisis’, which directly involved the Arabs, as they stopped oil production as several major countries joined war campaigns against countries in the middle east. ‘Fuel for the horses’, relates to oil and the cars that it powers, demonstrating the miraculous progression in technology that has occurred over time. This use of allusion effectively combines truth of this historical context with fiction, conveying a sense of veracity to the poem, making it seem more believable.
Reality is not always a good thing though, as shown through the effective use of personification to show the true dangers of our progressing society. “Any check in high speed/ can bleed into gravel”, personifies speeding with being able to bleed, conveying a sinister feel to the poem, illustrating the risks of modern transport. This sense of peril and fear shown through the reference to blood and death makes the reader think about how successful the world we live in today really is.
Highlighting these issues effectively influences the reader through shock and fear to fall for Murray’s views on progression. Les Murray; a poet that will live in Australia’s hearts for generations to come for his awe-inspiring works of art; has attacked the issue of over progression in this poem through the effective use of creative poetic devices and structures to promote his influential views. We may crave for progress, but this progress will ultimately be the death of us, and Les Murray has convinced every single one of his thousands of readers that this message is completely true.