A review of Earshot by Sam Morley

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

by Sam Morley
Puncher & Wattmann
ISBN: 9781922571441, Paperback, July 2022, 96 pages, $25aud

Sam Morley is an award-winning poet and widely published in journals and anthologies. Earshot is his first collection of poetry and it is a winner. In the first section, “A dream track to sleep”, Morley reflects on the past, exploring things like losing a father, childhood issues, back seat driving, having a dog and many others. Some of the poems in this section have nostalgic tones, and are very Australian in place and content with a sprinkle of Filipino and Spanish culture. It impressed me how Morley can turn simple events into poetry like ‘skating at 40’ (the title of one of his poems). He is a brilliant storyteller, the stories in the poems are written in a language that is dynamic and stylistic as well as entertaining. The work evokes emotions, coupled with strong tension, but not in a heavy way.

“What counts for silence here” is the second section, it seems to me that here the poet opens himself up on a more personal level, with words that create perfect rhythm. Morley brings in the poetic “I” in a calm and paced manner that does not impose on the reader.  Many of the poems are gentle as a breeze and yet deep as a well–a combination Morley excels at:

Perfection only deals in moments
and for a perfect moment
I can slouch as slow as storm clouds and stand
my ground like the sapling outside our window.
Or else go mad, spinning and clicking
like cicadas do to welcome the dark. (“Closing Time”)

In this section readers will encounter some sadness in poems about the Australian bush fires, failed romances and other eventualities from the past and the present. There are secrets behind the poems which leave the reader thinking and guessing, in a way that is both evocative and pleasurable.

“A hinge opening on a home” is the third section of the book. This is a very entertaining section with domestic poems. Anyone who deals with children will identify with the subject matter. The poet ponders subjects of perennial relevance, combining brilliant imagery with graceful structures and original ideas:

The wind gathers in its arms all
the most frightening moments of our lives
throws slanting grains of rain and mica flares
fasten to the earth, the world
in momentary seizure.  Our heads hung
the storm rushes us up the hill.
A catacomb closes over.  Even children know 
when the day is split, when the weather within us
changes, when something final has arrived. (“My sons watch the storm”)

The last section of the book is titled “An aria of canaries”. As the title suggests, this section contains poems about birds, bats, moths, a plague of rats as well as death and being old. Morley is creative in form and style, using repetition to good effect. Sam Morley has succeeded in bringing to light a beautiful poetry book in Earshot, conveying a complexity of meaning with poetic lines which awaken the imagination as its traverses times and places. This is a terrific and masterful debut, and I look forward to more books from this exciting new poet.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is a well-known reviewer, writer and poet, known for her sense of humour. “Her poems are sensuous, evocative and imaginative. Beatriz Copello is one of Australia’s foremost poets,” wrote Julia Hancock, ex-editor of Allan & Unwin and Freelance editor and journalist. Copello’s poetry books are Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations at the Edge of a Dream, Flowering Roots, Under the Gums Long Shade, Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish) and her last book Witches Women and Words was published by Ginninderra Publishing. Her poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many other print and Electronic Publications. Fiction books by author are: A Call to the Stars, Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria and Beyond the Moons of August (Her Doctoral Thesis).