The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 25, 2007

Poems The Size Of Photographs

Continuing FSG Insiders Week, Cara Spitalewitz has written a great post about what it's like to work with Australian poet Les Murray (for more Les, check here for a link to Adam Zagajewski reading Murray's 'The International Poetry Festival Thing'):

"I’ve always hated my last name. It’s long and hard to pronounce and since starting at FSG, I’ve begun to suspect that I don’t enunciate it properly. Why else would I get so much mail addressed to Caris Pitalewitz? Why else would I get so many compliments on my interesting first name, which rhymes with Paris?

Imagine my surprise when I received a handwritten note from Les Murray, famed Australian poet, complimenting me on my 'splendid name.' The fact that the note was handwritten wasn’t the surprising part. Les doesn’t have access to e-mail. He may as well not have a phone either, since the time difference between New York and Australia is 14 hours. He does have a fax machine, but it only works on occasion.


I learned from the note that Les Murray’s paternal ancestors came from a farm in the Scottish Borders called Spital Tower, which used to be a leprosium run by monks. As a result, my last name has a 'warm resonance' for him.


At the bottom of the page is a black scribble, followed by a parenthetical: (excuse this blot!)

I’ve been here for seven months now, and the only decoration in my office is Les Murray’s note, scotch-taped next to my computer. I’ve excused the blot."

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