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This review is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

DOMESTIC EXILE ANDREW SANT, The Unmapped Page: Selected Poems (Arc) £8.95

That Andrew Sant was born in Britain and moved to Australia at the age of twelve has made him poetically sensitive to the question of identity. Here, for example, is the start of `Glenlyon', the opening poem in The Unmapped Page and the one from which it takes its title:

This page is cool light and my shadow's
hovering vague shape from the window behind
defining hazed distances I've come from -
childhood, a city.

The poet, we assume, is preparing to write, and the light from the window behind his head is throwing his `vague' and `hovering' shadow on the `unmapped page' in front of him. The view from the window is similarly vague: `the nearby pre-settlement hills' are `undefined and remote'. But these `hazed distances' are not just physical; they refer as well to the poet's past, and, by extension, to Australia's history. Thus are encapsulated, in a memorable image, the principal themes in Sant's Selected: the themes of personal and cultural identity and the various ways they coincide.

The sense of not belonging, or of only partly belonging, saturates The Unmapped Page. The speaker in `Geologist in a Cave', for example, is `a million uninhabited / years from home'; and in `The Transmitters' the poet identifies (and indeed identifies Australia generally) with the electrical signals `received on TV ... visitant, dream-like, / making any dimly lit shack a home'. `An Album of Domestic Exiles' is ...


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