Four Oceans, Toby Davidson’s second collection, confirms his reputation as one of the most expansive and radical voices in the emerging generation of Australian poets. It moves from Western to Eastern Australia and overseas through finely-wrought long sequences and experiments in form which bear stark witness to the present moment and ask us how we got here.
Book-ended by two substantial sequences, with ‘memory as a toy to tamper with (and how)’, and great verbal ingenuity and humour, Four Oceans is a major achievement of one of our most talented younger poets.
– David Malouf
Toby Davidson’s poems present a new kind of knowing about language, landscape and colonialism. Two sequences, ‘Indian Pacific’ and ‘Cottesloe Nights’, begin and complete Four Oceans. Written in tercets, the first embarks on a journey not only across the Australian desert but vertically through its history of habitation and travel. ‘Cottesloe Nights’ investigates a single landscape, Cottesloe Beach in Western Australia, switching from childhood reminiscences to Octavio Paz’s ‘remembered present’ where poetry has the power to fix within the present the past, both mythic and real. These are truly startling poems written by a poet of extraordinary integrity and imagination.
– Jennifer Harrison
The poetry of Toby Davidson reminds us why lyric poems are the opposite of selfies. His poems are encounters as a species of consciousness, personal
but shared, a merging of self with place, culture, memory and especially the endless questions of being. In the long Nullarbor train sequence ‘Indian Pacific’ his syntax takes on uncanny rhythmic patterns that seem to push and pull into a sustained, almost visionary, seeing. Other poems develop an
absurdist cultural critique with moments of bravura reminiscent of his first collection Beast Language. Four Oceans is vibrant and questioning.
– Philip Salom