Poem introduction

If I write about anything in particular I write about how we see and how we try to see and this poem came out of a journey I made by ferry at night in which I thought there would be nothing to look at.

Night Photograph

Night Photograph

Crossing the Channel at midnight in winter,
coastline develops as distance grows,
then simplifies to shadow, under-exposed.

Points of light - quayside, harbour wall,
the edge of the city -
sink as the surface of the night fills in.

Beyond the boat, the only interruption
is the choppy grey-white we leave behind us,
gone almost before it is gone from sight.

What cannot be pictured is the depth
with which the water moves against itself,
in such abstraction the eye can find

no break, direction or point of focus.
Clearer, and more possible than this,
is the circular horizon.

Sea and sky meet in suspension,
gradual familiar textures of black:
eel-skin, marble, smoke, oil -

made separate and apparent by the light
that pours from the sun onto the moon,
the constant white on which these unfixable

layers of darkness thicken and fade.
We are close to land, filtering through
shipping lanes and marker buoys

towards port and its addition of colour.
There is a slight realignment of the planets.
Day breaks at no particular moment.

From Night Photograph, (Faber & Faber, 1993), copyright © Lavinia Greenlaw 1993, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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Lavinia Greenlaw

Lavinia Greenlaw Downloads


2Night Parrot

3River History

4From Scattered Blue

5A Change in the Weather

6The Patagonian Nightingale


8Love from a Foreign City

9The Innocence of Radium

10Night Photograph

11Reading Akhmatova in Midwinter



14The Shape of Things


16A World Where News Travelled Slowly

17The Earliest Known Representation of a Storm in Western Art

18Late Sun

19The Spirit of the Staircase

20The Falling City

21The Long Day Closes

22Essex Rag





27Camel Hair

28Against Rhetoric: A Letter to Lord Chandos, 1603


30'What makes for the fullness and perfection of life'

31Blue Field


33Bird Walk


35The Boat Back into the Dark

Books by Lavinia Greenlaw