Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Crossing the boundaries

  • 18 May 2007

This is a book of edges, of peripheries, wrestling with gravity, unseen (underground) menace, poisonings and movements across time and place. There’s a coherence in it, a dialogue between poems on things as diverse as the auguring yearly presence of the cold or flu in the house (‘quiet clearing of the throat/from a child’s room, close to midnight’), a Ferris wheel, a blowhole, and the elegiac rumination over the death of a neighbour. That coherence comes out of the desire to assert a positive view of a world so tainted by avoidable tragedies. There are always options to the poison. The book’s vision is not Luddite—ships and planes can be cherished and ironised simultaneously. The white of Antarctica both beckons and symbolises an unattainable absolute. I might hesitate to call this book darkly spiritual, but I would certainly call it spiritual. There’s a caring in it—a sophisticated deployment of language anchored in the ‘real’, the actual, that drives the narrative of this tightly honed, compact book. Many poems have been written about visiting Antarctica, or imagining visiting Antarctica, but Day’s is of a darker hue: ‘A tawdry brass band extracts too much emotional mileage’, as ‘Antarctic Ships’ begins. She gives us the tension between what the mind perceives and the emotions experience, the desire to be present and absent, and the fetishisation of the seemingly exotic, the ship as something akin to that of Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym; a perverse ferryman of the Southern seas: The tilted vision has some allure—the thirty-degree list, the bloodstopping notion of deep green fathoms above which these tubs valiantly ferry the little emblems of life itself. Who knows mortality like a sailor? There’s sympathy, even admiration here, but a recognition of an ironic sublime. The lines are effortless and yet strangely cutting. The outsider, the new arrival, comes via those temporary villages, towns, and cities, ships. Migration, transference, exploration, visitation, pleasure—the ship is a kind of conjurer’s trick, a delusion of connectivity and community. Day’s ship poems give movement and stasis in the one line: a sense of approaching something but still being part of, even caught in, what’s left behind. In others, the personae of the poems see themselves as the ship touches yet another port on its way to the symbolic vastness and emptiness. These experiences are overwhelmingly full, and it’s the intricacy, the myriad variations and disguises of nature and people that