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David Malouf (1934 – )

David Malouf, Adelaide Festival, 1984, photo by John Tranter David Malouf, Adelaide Festival, 1984, photo by John Tranter

David Malouf was born on 20 March 1934 in a private hospital in South Brisbane, the suburb where he grew up, as memorably recounted in his memoir 12 Edmondstone Street (1985).  His paternal family had arrived in Australia in the 1880s from Lebanon, while his mother's were Sephardic Jews from Spain, who had gone to England via Holland, before migrating to Australia in 1913. He attended Brisbane Grammar School and then completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at University of Queensland. When he was 24, like many young Australians during this period, he travelled overseas, remaining there for almost ten years, teaching in England and travelling in Europe. In 1968 he returned to Australia and was appointed senior tutor and, later, lecturer in English at the University of Sydney, resigning in 1977 to become a full-time writer. Initially he spent part of the year writing in the peace and quiet of southern Tuscany but since 1985 has lived in Sydney.

Malouf began writing as a child, publishing work in a neighbourhood newspaper when he was about seven years old. After reading Kenneth Slessor's poetry as a teenager, Malouf was inspired to attempt to become a poet himself.  His friend Judith Rodriguez sent some of Malouf's early poems to Clem Christesen,  then editor of the literary journal Meanjin. His first poem to be published appeared there in 1960 and in 1962 he was one of the poets represented in Four Poets, the others being fellow Brisbane poets Don Maynard, Judith Green (later Rodriguez), and Rodney Hall. Malouf's first solo collection, Bicycle and other poems, appeared in the UQP Paperback Poets series in 1970. His next collection, Neighbours in a Thicket (1974), confirmed Malouf's reputation as one of Australia's leading poets, winning that year's Townsville Foundation for Australian Literary Studies Award, as well as the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal and the Grace Leven Poetry Prize.

By then, Malouf was also turning his attention to fiction; his first novel, Johnno, appeared in 1975, his second, An Imaginary Life (1978), was an international success.  Malouf has gone on to publish five further novels, which have won major Australian and international awards and been translated into many languages, as well as publishing novellas and short stories. He has also written a play, opera libretti, including an adaptation of Patrick White's novel Voss, and many highly regarded essays. Malouf was made an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1987 and elected an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1989. In 1997 he was declared an Australian National Living Treasure, while he received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2000.

Since 1974, however, Malouf has also continued to write poetry, publishing collections of new works at regular intervals. Volumes of his selected poems appeared in Australia in 1981, 1991 and 1992, as well as in London in 1994. Typewriter Music (2007) received the 2008 Arts Queensland Judith Wright Calanthe Prize for Poetry. Revolving Days, made up of new and selected poems, appeared in 2008. Like his fiction, Malouf's poetry is distinguished by his use of concrete detail and arresting images, together with his preoccupation with such themes as history, memory and language.

Poetry Collections

[with Don Maynard, Judith Green, and Rodney Hall], Four Poets (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1962).

Bicycle and other poems
(St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1970).

Neighbours in a Thicket: poems
(St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1974).

Gesture of a Hand (Artarmon, NSW: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975).

Poems 1975-1976 (Sydney: Prism, 1976).

The Year of the Foxes and other poems
(New York, USA: George Braziller, 1979).

Wild Lemons: poems (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1980).

First Things Last: poems (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1980).

Selected Poems (North Ryde, NSW: Angus and Roberston, 1981).

Selected Poems (North Ryde, NSW: Angus and Robertson, 1991).

Poems 1959-1989 (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1992).

Selected Poems 1959-1989
(London, UK: Chatto and Windus, 1994).

Typewriter Music (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2007).

Guide to the Perplexed and other poems
(Warners Bay, NSW: Picaro Press, 2007).

Revolving Days: selected poems
(St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2008).

Suggested Further Reading

Emily Bitto, ' "Our Own Way Back": Spatial Memory in the Poetry of David Malouf,' Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature 8 (2008).
http://www.nla.gov.au/openpublish/index.php/jasal/article/view/669

Jim Davidson, 'Interview: David Malouf,' Meanjin 39.3 (1980), pp. 323-34.

Dennis Haskell, ' "Smoke Drifting Up at Dawn": Individual Identity in the Poetry of David Malouf,' in Amanda Nettlebeck, ed., Provisional Maps: Critical Essays on David Malouf (Nedlands, WA: University of Western Australia, 1994),

Ivor Indyk, David Malouf. Oxford Australian Writers (South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Geoff Page, 'David Malouf,' A Reader's Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1995), pp. 183-86.

Brigid Rooney, 'David Malouf,' in Selina Samuels, ed., Australian Writers, 1950-1975 (Detroit, USA: Gale Research, 2004), pp. 214-22.

Natalie Seger, 'Imagining Transcendence: The Poetry of David Malouf,' Australian Literary Studies 22.2 (2005), pp. 146-49.

Thomas Shapcott, 'David Malouf: An Interview,' Quadrant 22.10 (1978), pp. 27-31.

Thomas Shapcott, 'The Evidence of Anecdote: Some Perspectives on the Poetry of David Malouf,' in Amanda Nettlebeck, ed., Provisional Maps: Critical Essays on David Malouf (Nedlands, WA: University of Western Australia, 1994), pp. 1-11.

Yvonne Smith, 'Hunter or Hunted? David Malouf's Poetic of the Human and Inhuman,' Southerly 69.1 (2009), pp. 167-81.

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