Writing & News

Reviews of Words are Eagles by Gregory Day

Nature writing seems so often to categorise itself, and that for me is ultimately its limitation as an activist mode, but, at its best, it breaks such bounds and articulates the unspoken spaces between the natural and human worlds, and respects the segues between them. Gregory Day manages to achieve this form of “nature writing” in Words are Eagles

These essays and reviews are lyrical inflections that document topographies and psycho-geographical ley lines disturbingly complicated by varying levels of colonial intrusion. I admire the sonics of the work, and that is present in so many ways, and may be why the lyrical quality of the work is pivotal to following its subsongs. Day creates an ambient feeling of involvement with Gaia, the earth.

John Kinsella, The Age, August 2022

Occasionally I read a book that resonates so powerfully I am lost for words. It resists explication, often because I am still immersed in the writing and wish only to stay there. Words Are Eagles, Gregory Day’s exquisite collection of writings on the nature and language of place, is one such book. – Justin Avery on Readings.com.au

Gregory Day’s writing is inextricably bound with the landscape in this collection.

Words are Eagles is a tonic selection of Gregory Day’s various non-fiction published in Australian journals, magazines and newspapers over recent years (roughly the period 2015 to date). It anthologises his excellent essays for the Nature Conservancy Australia Nature Writing Prize and dips into his wreading – ‘that is, the simultaneous and recursive synthesis of the acts of reading and writing’ – a term Day attributes to the American poet and critic Jed Rasula.”
– Paul Anderson, The Newtown Review of Books July 2022

“It is an urgent invitation to become local, while respecting what you do not know and cannot claim. For a reader, like me, who is familiar with this place (the “Surf Coast”), Words are Eagles conjures an astonishing sense of what is hidden in plain sight: the polychromatic ochre timbres of the clay earth beneath the roads, the “pottery nest” of the willie wagtail couple in the boobiallas by the “eely river”, the Wadawurrung language the children are learning at the local primary school.”
– David Carlin, The Conversation July 2022

“I relished reading and re-reading Words Are Eagles, and keenly appreciated its poetic mysteries, philosophical playfulness, and powerful evocation of a region. It beautifully captures (and seeks to accelerate) a signifcant shift in Australian culture towards respecting and re-learning the language of nature and place: the ecology of words that belong here.”
– Tom Griffiths, Australian Book Review July 2022

“This is a thought-provoking collection that will be arresting to nature-lovers who find themselves struggling to describe the awe of the world around them. Day offers a blueprint of what a settler reckoning to their own naïve position in relation to landscape and language might look like.” (full review: https://www.artshub.com.au/news/reviews/book-review-words-are-eagles-gregory-day-2563187/ ). -Erin Stewart, ArtsHub July 2022

“What Words are Eagles narrates is Day’s long effort to know his particular patch of earth – Airey’s Inlet (or Mangowak, as the traditional owners call it) and surrounds – with proper intimacy. Only by entering into long imaginative collaboration with his local environment, in other words, can Day earn the experiential spurs to write about it. His opening essay The Watergaw is typical in this regard – while also being an extraordinary piece of creative nonfiction, blending autobiography, regional history, literary criticism and environmental thinking… Such efforts are a fraction of what Day considers in the thought experiments that make up this volume. His ideas range from eccentric to truly radical – and gathered together we can see that the author has quietly, doggedly, carefully, assembled one of the most intriguing and necessary body of works by a contemporary Australian author. When Day writes the word ‘Bunjil’ – the Wadawurrung word for Wedge-Tailed Eagle – one senses he has earned to right to do so.” -Geordie Williamson, chief literary critic of The Australian.

Words Are Eagles invites a broad audience to grapple with how we relate to place, and is
ultimately a must for bookshelves Australia-wide. –Duncan Strachan, The Big Issue.

The world of his essays offers a sensory and rhythmic oscillation between the personal – memories, family history and relationships – and vivid descriptions of the beauty of the natural world. This vital combination creates a necessary exploration of the language of Country – specifically the Wadawurrung and Gadubanud languages – as well as others transplanted to Australia through colonial settlement and migration. For example, in his tender essay “The Ocean at Night”, Day charts the migration of his family to the coast, inspired by his grandfather’s visit to Lorne after the death of his wife, long before Day was born. Day poses the question: “Are we that live in and around the coast … suffering from our lexicon of borrowed names?” The borrowed names he repeats are familiar: “gannet, myrtle beech, crayfish, bullant, bluegum, wattlebird, sheoak, bandicoot, leucopogon … Pull these words out by their roots and see how little soil is clinging to them here.” –Brooke Boland, The Saturday Paper