Thursday Poems: The Suspect Corpse by Les Murray

The dead man lay, nibbled, between
dark carriages of a rocky river,

a curled load of himself, in cheap
clothes crusted in dried water.

So begins this wonderful little poem, nestled in Murray’s Taller When Prone collection. I was in a rush to find something to share last week, so I picked up the nearest book and flicked open to a page – this one.

You will find, with every poem I share, one thing binds them all together: the sounds. The poems I love best tend to be the ones with the most dynamic sonics on display, a kind of aural fireworks that dances on the tongue, that delights. Of course, sound is not enough in and of itself, no, I look for those paired with a strong narrative, or else which communicate an emotion most strongly.

Since I’m not sure of copyright laws, I won’t share the entirety of Murray’s poem here and instead, I’ll link you to another poem I found this week — it was a rich week of poetry for me, and I can’t wait till next week to show you more — by Yusef Komunyakaa, a poet I was tragically ignorant of until just a few days ago. This is called Envoy to Palestine.

It’s got everything I want in a poem; searing lyricism, strong narrative, and a sonic interplay with ideas and emotion which should be the envy of every poet. My favourite line — and I could quote the whole damn thing at you — is this:

I know a prison of sunlight on the skin.

Needless to say, I have to buy one/all of this man’s work. I’ve read a few others since I stumbled onto that one, and I’ve yet to be disappointed. Click on over to read that poem on Poetry Foundation, which I also have to give a massive shoutout to — it’s an invaluable resource, a gift that keeps on giving, ensuring I keep getting to dig into the guts of poetry to find these sparkling bloody gems.


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