Toby Davidson’s first collection, Beast Language, was published nine years ago. That feels surprising: its freshness then makes it feel more recent now. Much of the movement in that book is present in his new collection, Four Oceans, literally so, as we begin with a long sequence aboard the Indian Pacific from Perth to Sydney. It’s his younger self again, leaving home for the ‘eastern states’, but with an esprit de l’escalier twist, as that younger self gets to see and describe everything with the eye and language of the older, freer, more assured Davidson.
It is a compelling journey. The rhythms of the writing conjure up the compressed, swaying, jolting drag of a long train journey: ‘Two-seaters unlatch and swing into cradles – / my flickering doona, Canadian Monica, star-crossed and rocking platonic. Orange sparks of outer mines sprint like children for a vintage loco.’