Among the more unusual relics of the fishing industry in Hull's maritime museum is a holed fragment of the trawler Mino, sunk off the Dogger Bank in October 1904. At the time, the Russian fleet was making its way from the Baltic to the Pacific the long - the incredibly long - way round, where they hoped to engage the waiting Japanese. Mistaking a group of Hull trawlers for enemy craft they opened fire, a mere 18,000 miles off target. Leaving two dead fishermen and an unseemly diplomatic incident in its wake, the fleet loped on down to Spain and Africa, into the Indian Ocean and finally the Pacific, where military annihilation swiftly followed. Among the crew on this epically futile journey was Flag-Engineer Eugène Sigismondovitch Politovsky, author of From Libau to Tsushima, published after his death in May 1905. Dredging Politovsky up from history for a commission he received from the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull in 1983, Douglas Dunn has made him the narrator of his book-length poem The Donkey's Ears. It's been a long journey for Politovsky this time round as well: after leaving the poem for many years Dunn picked it up again in 1997, about the time he found himself with lots of solitary evenings to fill, to judge from the dates attached to some of the poems in his other new collection, The Year's Afternoon. Writing and solitude are strong themes in both books.
LRB 21 June 2001 | PDF Download