Poetry

Swimming to Albania

Swimming to Albania, Sue Hubbard’s fourth collection can be ordered from www.salmonpoetry.com and all good bookshops



Swimming to Albania is Sue Hubbard’s fourth collection of poems. The opening poem ‘Lost in Space’ teases out the preoccupations of the collection – longing, desire and loss – in its presentation of the poet as a child ‘lost’ and dreaming of ‘a boat that will take her home.’

More poems about childhood follow and the sense of being lost is reinforced in the tentative title of ‘1955, perhaps?’ and in the opening of ‘Snow’ where the poet is ‘lost in an infinity of misted mirrors.’ The words ‘loss’ and ‘lost’ reverberate through the poems in the first of the three sections of the collection, along with ‘absence’ and ‘space.’ This emptiness is a space which cannot be filled because ‘the past is another country / one I barely remember’ and ‘the dead [are] impervious to our childhood questions.’ The truth is ‘a void’ they cannot fill, leaving the poet haunted by ‘all that was never said.’ 

From here, the poet invites the reader to accompany her on a journey in poems which take her from the west coast of Ireland by way of Lisbon, Siena and Greece, to Albania. It soon becomes clear that this journeying is loaded with metaphorical significance: it is a journey into the poet’s past, a voyage of self-discovery, and an Odyssean search for an idealised home where the self is known – a safe place on the other side of grief, a state of reconciliation, redemption, and understanding.

Between the coastal places of the opening and closing poems at either end of the journey, further images of water function as metaphors of psychoanalytic exploration – as the poet dives into deep dark places of self. The Albania which the poet is swimming towards in the title of the collection, and the penultimate poem, is the once-forbidden place that even now is difficult to reach.

Jane Simmons

About the reviewer Jane Simmons is a former teacher – and now a PhD student. She won the University of Leicester’s GS Fraser Poetry Prize in 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the Seren Christmas Poetry Prize in 2020. Her work has appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Blue Nib magazine and on the Seren blog, as well as being long-listed for the Butcher’s Dog magazine.

You can read more about Swimming to Albania by Sue Hubbard on Creative Writing at Leicester here



I read Sue Hubbard’s anthology of poems Swimming to Albania in one sitting yesterday and I think them wonderful. Luminous, rapturous and melancholy, full of vivid passionate description, boldly and bravely self-revelatory, offering raw melancholy and those so vital moments of self-acceptance, compassion and universal truth.

There are echoes of TS Eliot in the acknowledgement that humankind cannot bear very much reality. But The counterbalance is the sense of the author finding grace and possibility in Keats’s Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness.

But most of all there is Sue’s ecstatic descriptions of field, forest,beach and sky interwoven with an intensely crafted understanding of human emotions that will chime with many of us.

Angea Neustatter

3 Quarks Daily – A Review of Sue Hubbard’s Fourth Poetry Collection: Swimming to Albania

Sue Hubbard presents a programme focused on her fourth poetry collection, Swimming to Albania on Clear Spot, Resonance FM:

Book launch and reading at Vout-O-Reenees

Introduced by poet and sculptor Stephen Duncan

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