Earth Hour by David Malouf
David Malouf creates cosmologies around what we typically regard as banal spaces – most famously suburban Brisbane in works such as Johnno. His novels, short stories, essays and poetry are each a virtuoso of memory, exploring the flesh of experience that weds space to time. Though his prose receives more attention than his verse, Malouf’s career as a poet is long-standing, with Earth Hour marking his tenth poetry publication since ‘Interiors’ appeared in 1962.
In Earth Hour, Malouf again produces a graceful and provocative vision of life. This collection continues a desire to define space (earth) and time (hour) through each other, as the title subtly suggests. But while this is a strong theme across Malouf’s accomplished career, Earth Hour has the freshness of a newly imagined world. And in many ways that is precisely what this collection represents, Malouf’s gift for imaginative inhabitation. The poems weave through gardens, cities, bays and seascapes, reveling in the varied ways memory imprints space. In poetry Malouf seems particularly adept in the art of planet-shrinking, wrapping the self in a subjective map of the world.
Animated by memory and history, Earth Hour brings past to present in many ways. Time is an enigma where centuries telescope into days, and the sediment of history fills the earth as ‘dead under the topsoil’. Not only does history inscribe cartography, it also speaks the words of yesterday’s heroes today, as shown in the poems after Charles Baudelaire and Heinrich Heine. Throughout this collection there is the radiance of a master poet, whose technical flair delights equally in light and shade, abstraction and whimsy. Many writers of prose also write poetry, but rare are the novelists who are also major poets in their own right. Malouf is a heavyweight of Australian poetry, and Earth Hour is sure to be among the finest poetry publications of 2014.
Lucy Van is a freelance reviewer.