The celebrated poet Les Murray, who died yesterday, touched the hearts of everyday Australians, UNE's Anne Pender, professor of English and theatre studies, believes.
"He didn't sit away from ordinary people in a room," she said. "His poetry was for people, it was about ordinary people, and mostly about ordinary Australians."
Murray was Australia's leading poet, a Living Treasure. The "Bush-Bard" wrote about quintessentially Australian topics: the country, rural folk, drought, our place in the world, and the Republican movement.
Here in Armidale, the University of New England offered Murray his first writer-in-residence post in 1978, and awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in 2016 for his contribution to Australian literature and contemporary poetry in English.
He was, too, an international figure. He was awarded major poetry prizes - the Petrarch Prize (1995), the T.S. Eliot Prize (1997), the Queen's Gold Medal (1999) - while some considered him a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
"He was extraordinary," Professor Pender said. "We mourn him today, and we will be reading him, I'm sure, for a long time."
Professor Pender met Murray when she lectured in Australian literature at King's College, London, in the early 2000s.
She remembers him as a big bear of a man, with a large smiling face and a barrel chest.
"Very laconic, very funny, a bit of a larrikin in his demeanour - but quietly spoken as well; not a loud, boorish person at all. Witty and engaging, and knowledgeable to talk to on so many different things."
Murray visited London regularly; he came to read his poetry, and to tour around Britain, reading his poetry in pubs in small towns and villages, as he did in his home country.
"He had a real ability to recite and to let the poetry wash over you, so that you could imbibe it with all your senses, as song and poetry should be experienced," Professor Pender said.
She praised Murray's extraordinary range of forms: rhythmic, lyric, song-like poetry; philosophical poetry; narrative poetry; highly cogent, socially aware, questioning, thrusting poetry; extended song cycles; and the verse novel Fredy Neptune.
His poems, she felt, were striking and warm, and, incredibly, haven't dated.
"He was incredibly diverse and incredibly powerful in very many modes," Professor Pender said. "The poetry is so wide-ranging and topical. It's moving and funny, but also deadly serious and pungent in its social criticism."
Murray's poetry was translated into about 20 languages, reaching an international audience. As a visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen, Professor Pender was surprised to find how many Danes knew of Murray, and that some scholars had spent years working on his poetry.
Her favourite Murray work is probably the 1996 collection Subhuman Redneck Poems. It contains "The Suspension of Knock", a serious poem about what Australia stands for; "Dead Trees in the Dam", evoking drought in breathtaking language; "The Mitchells"; and "Inside Ayers Rock".
"He did so much in his long life in poetry," Professor Pender said. "He really was a powerhouse."