Les Murray is an outsized poet, big as a barge—no, broad as the outback itself. The poems in The Biplane Houses are earthy, strange, almost unclassifiable at times, delivered as if he thought real poetry too hoity-toity for a bloke with 4X in the esky (I mean, beer in the fridge).[1] In many ways, the poet’s playfulness comes from acting like a cartoon Aussie, the Crocodile Dundee of the poetry circuit. Back home he’s called a diehard reactionary, one who loves too well the country that was; but he loves the country of information more, the odd facts and snippets he works up into verse. You never know, as you turn the pages, what you’ll come across: a poem about the placement of verbs in different languages, the fate of the descendants of the Bounty mutineers, or the exhibition of ancient skeletons:

crusty little...