Book Review: David Malouf’s An Open Book is a well crafted and emotive collection from one of Australia’s finest

An Open Book, published late last year, is the eleventh collection of poetry from David Malouf, and his third in the last ten years. Prior to this collection I only really knew of Malouf in his capacity as a writer of prose and short stories. As it turns out he is equally adept in many different forms of writing, from poetry to prose, and even libretti. At 84 there is some suggestion that An Open Book could be Malouf’s last, certainly he has implied that we will see no more fiction or memoir.

If this to be his last collection, readers can be comforted in the knowledge that it is a strong and beautifully written collection. Whilst I did not connect with all of the poems contained within the collection, there were many that held my attention and begged to be re-read. “The Open Book”, “On The Move, 1968” and “Kite” were particular favourites.

The contained poems are often brief, with nearly all of the poems being only one or two pages long. Yet, despite their brevity, there is plenty contained within what is often only a few lines, with Malouf capable of invoking such beautiful imagery from so little. Take this short section of the poem “Sunday Afternoon”, for example:

“Today in Sunday weather grevillia leaves 
in turmoil, no evident breeze. A honeyeater, up
-side-down at tilt and tumble. A sugar hit.”

Or this from “Kite”:

“With my mother lost for the afternoon
in another century, drowned
like Ophelia in her book, my father and I
(it is early wartime) get down to work doing our bit.”

Many of the poems collected in An Open Book are previously unpublished, so there is plenty of new material for Malouf fans to delve into. It’s an emotive and evocative collection, with the poet recollecting his childhood quite vividly in the sequence of poems entitled “Kinderszenen”. There are also ruminations on love, mortality and the human condition. It seems to me that this is the kind of collection that is best returned to at different times in your life, with each new reading offering up something new, some reference previously unnoticed.

An Open Book is a well crafted and emotive collection from one of Australia’s finest writers and poets. Presented in a beautifully designed hardback An Open Book will certainly make a great gift for that poetry lover in your life.


David Malouf’s An Open Book is available now from University of Queensland Press.

David Malouf will be appearing at Perth Writers Week in February

Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

Tags: , , ,