After a set of crowded, tumultuous prose poems, the book ends with a single lyric called "Envoi." It goes as follows (this time the comma is Slavick's): "He shakes the ice in the summer glass, clarity against clarity." Ice and glass, both transparent (hence "clarity"). But why "summer?" Because it conveys light, brightness, happiness. And that one word makes the poem.
This book isn't entirely made up of words. Slavick is also a photographer and there are seven color photos included. But the visual connections are more than this. She thanks the Australian artist Stephen Eastaugh for a phrase (Eastaugh was an artist in residence at Taipei's Artists Village earlier this year, fresh from Antarctica) and her poems have appeared in installations. Where her poems record emotions, they are frequently ones prompted by things seen. This is especially apparent in the section "To Nature," made up of minute poems, shorter than haiku, that are the least successful things in the collection. They may feel better in their Chinese versions, but in English they seem like notebook fragments looking for a home in a structured poem. On the other hand, Slavick may reply that lack of structure is their whole point.
Madeleine Marie Slavick may well be the best English-language poet Hong Kong has ever been home to. The English poet Edmund Blunden (1896-1974) lived there for a time, but these poems are often better than his. This is a most impressive collection.
An exhibition of Madeleine Marie Slavick's photographic work will be held at Taipei's Wisteria/ Zitenglu teahouse (No. 1, Lane 16, Xinsheng South Road) from 12 March to 12 April 2005. Delicate Access is already available there and can also be obtained direct from the publishers at www.sixthfingerpress.com.