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.