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Australia's leading poet Les Murray is one of the globe's finest, and he knows it. So much so, a request to blurb a collection of poems by the poet J.K. Murphy becomes an opportunity for him to flaunt his clout. Apparently, Les Murray's wife is an aspiring author, a social historian to be precise. Like a good husband, Murray thought he'd lend a hand to his wife's publishing career. Nothing shameful about that, I guess.


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However, as the above letter indicates to the editors at Puncher & Wattmann, a fairly new independent press in Australia, Murray thought he'd pursue a little back-scratching. Clearly, this is nothing new in the history of human relations.
You blurb my book; I will publish your wife's migrant chronicle. Good for him.
A few days later, after the story broke in Australian newspapers, Mr. Murray called the whole thing a joke and meant to deflect future requests for "endorsements," as he is tired of being "pestered unmercifully" for hyperbolic remarks of praise for mediocre manuscripts.

Originally Published: March 4th, 2008

Major Jackson's books of poems are Holding Company (2010, Norton) and Hoops (2006, Norton), both finalists for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry, and Leaving Saturn (2002, University of Georgia Press), which was awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems and was a finalist for the National Book...

  1. March 5, 2008
     Sheryl

    I don't know if it was really a joke or not, but backscratching seems to be more important than poetry some days. I was very depressed today about it. But what can we do? Just read poems that are magical.

  2. March 7, 2008
     Jilly

    wow an actual TYPEWRITTEN page

  3. March 9, 2008

    It's part of what Nathaniel Tarn derisively calls "the pobiz," showbiz without the money. Fortunately, most of us--I hope--will never have to worry about being on either end of this kind of quid pro quo...
    Tyrone