Slack Tide by Sarah Day

Slack Tide

(Pitt Street Poetry 2022)

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… silver eels with intelligent faces examine ours,
assess our aptitude.

This was a world we thought we knew
by daylight but it resembles nothing that we know,
insists we think like water at slack tide — 
ambivalent, sensing whether to come or go

(Slack Tide)

Slack tide is the turning point when a body of tidal water can seem uncertain as to whether it is coming in or going out. While surface water may be deceptively calm at this time, below the surface huge divergent forces are at work. In the title of Sarah Day’s ninth collection the term is an expression of twenty-first century unease. World events and global forces are an oblique presence in much of this collection in whose poems private and public disturb one another’s space and boundaries.

“This singular metaphor [slack tide] resonates throughout the collection, embracing wider dissonances, which question how best to live an ethical life. This is a collection that holds unseen tumultuous experience in conflict with surface poise. Again, the poet looks to make sense of the chaos ‘behind things’ and, in this way, the titular poem ‘Slack Tide’ holds the landscape close”.

Jennifer Harrison, Australian Book Review

“Given how much the relation between the above and the below is an important part of Day’s view of the world, there’s an attractive consistency in deploying (even if not in all the poems) a technique which adopts this at a hermeneutic level.”

Martin Duwell, Australian Poetry Review

“… a book of deep contemplation of the issues of our times: climate change, racism, the consolation of nature, and places under threat. Each poem is an attainment few can match, the poetry is superb at every level”.

Judith Beveridge, Australian Book Review
Towards Light by Sarah Day

Towards Light

(Puncher & Wattmann 2018)

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To the vanishing point where light will expand/where light wants the eye to go
(“Towards Light”)

Light, as a physical and metaphorical entity recurs in many of the poems in this new collection by Sarah Day. Light makes its presence felt in these poems as a source of illumination and grace, it is also the means by which the flaws and discrepancies of the present and past are highlighted.

“Sarah Day is a poet of wonderful attentiveness. She notices everything, persuading us, as readers, that she has seen and heard the living world truly. Wherever she stands, she gives lyrical utterance in Towards Light to our fresh, daily life, vibrant in its perpetuity.”

Christopher Wallace-Crabbe

“Exquisitely nuanced, vivid and brilliant, Towards Light observes the natural world with grace and artistry and generously offers to her readers the gift of rapture.”

Janine Burke


This collection is concerned with specificity and the figurative. There’s a delight in the joys of the natural world, but the natural world needs intense human perception to survive the pressure we are placing it under, and humans managing to be human need intense understanding as well. Sarah Day looks closely, and considers carefully what she sees, what is experienced, what is lost — she ‘is not insensible to change’ any more than the world itself is — and also what is to be cherished.

John Kinsella

Judge’s Commendation for the Wesley Michel Wright Prize 2018

“In this collection, Sarah Day shows a quiet mastery of poetic form, recalibrating rhythm and rhyme scheme to register the tremors of everyday experience that point to more seismic shifts of feeling, affiliation, and identity. Water and air are the elements from which Day composes her visions of light and flight. In her poems, words are restored to their original powers of illumination and elevation.”

Tempo by Sarah Day


(Puncher & Wattmann 2013)

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A selection from Tempo won the University of Melbourne Wesley Michel Wright Prize 2014. It has been short listed in the 2014 the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

This sense of the superimposition of past and future onto the present, of the simultaneous coexistence of all time, is an abiding theme in Sarah Day’s new collection, Tempo, as signalled by the epigraph from St Augustine:

“A present of things past, a present of things present, a present of things future… what then is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not.”

And the manifold ways in which this insight can be illustrated are richly explored in poem after poem.

Stephen Edgar – Launch Speech Sydney 2103

“These masterly poems follow ‘the traffic of ideas from the known world’, spiralling along cultural trajectories – from the ancient waters of Mareotis to the glimmering port of Hobart – to arrive at a ‘radiant in-pouring’ of dawn: ‘a casual, brilliant right of entry’. Tempo showcases Sarah Day’s imagination in exuberant bloom. Her poems are philosophical, lustrous and deserving of wide praise.”

Bronwyn Lea
Grass Notes by Sarah Day

Grass Notes

(Brandl & Schlesinger, 2009)

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The poems in Grass Notes are linked by cadence and musicality. Time and transience form the sub-stratum of much of this collection which moves from the intimacy of the close-up, to wide angle views of humanity – “orbiting a mundane star on the outer margins / of the Milky Way” (Observatory).

‘A scrupulous eye and a true ear; Grass Notes contains some of the finest examples of Australian poetry I have read.’

Alex Miller


‘Day is one of the most accomplished poets of her generation, (belonging in particular to that nest of singing birds who have so distinguished the literature of Tasmania in the half century from Vivian Smith and James McAuley to the present).’

Peter Pierce, Canberra Times
The Ship by Sarah Day

The Ship

(Brandl & Schlesinger, 2004)

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  • Winner Wesley Michelle Wright Award, Melbourne University 2004
  • 2004 Winner of Wesley Michel Wright Prize for Poetry
  • 2005 Winner of Queensland Premier’s Judith Wright Calanthe Award for Poetry
  • 2005 Joint winner ACT Art & Literary Awards’ Judith Wright Prize for a new published collection of poems

ISBN 1 876040 59 9
$22.95 80 pp pb. Rights: World

About The Ship

These are poems for our in between times, full of arrivals and departures, ships setting out for the new world or for the cold wastes of Antarctica, aircraft taking off with a roar of power, strange menaces behind suburban seeming, yet full of sudden intimations of tenderness and hope, old houses and a dying neighbour, children and hens scratching between iris and daffodil, disrupting roots… And it’s all said so simply and lucidly. Sarah Day is clearly a poet who matters, one with the gift of being able to transform the world we know.’

Veronica Brady

‘The poems in Sarah Day’s new collection are of a very high order: rich, serious, alert, technically proficient, attentive to language’s nuances, to fugitive sense impressions and the discernment of meaning. What makes her poetry especially engaging is a deepening capacity to combine a wryly candid personal voice with a complex imaginative grasp of the topography and spirit of the places she occupies. Not in any insular or parochial sense, but in her resourceful, gritty yet graceful celebration of the local and the ordinary in poems far from ordinary, informed by a comprehension of the natural world transcending locality. The challenge of mortality is confronted as effectively in the life of a bantam, as it is in the grander aspirations of an Antarctic sailor, as much at ease on land or sea. The sea looms large as befits an island dweller. Living and dead merge in several poignant poems generated by images of English forbears and their vanishing worlds. Sarah Day’s scrutiny of what lies beyond the self in her explorations of identity and place indicates a buoyant spiritual composure, amplifying the reader’s sense of what is possible as well as pointing up what limits may have to be acknowledged. We can never have enough of such hard-won wisdom or the many and surprising lyric pleasures these eloquent poems afford. Read them and refresh your imaginative life.’

Fay Zwicky
New and Selected Poems by Sarah Day

New and Selected Poems

(Arc UK 2002)

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UK Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

Quickening by Sarah Day


(Penguin Books Australia Ltd. 1997)

Out of print

Pamphlet Series

(National Library of Australia) (1993)

A Madder Dance by Sarah Day

A Madder Dance

(Penguin Books Australia Ltd. 1991)

Shortlisted for the National Book Council Banjo Awards.

Out of print

A Hunger to Be Less Serious by Sarah Day

A Hunger to Be Less Serious

(Angus and Robertson 1987)

Winner of the Anne Elder Award for a first volume of poetry in 1987

Out of print