Areas of comparison

Nil Nil

11:00: Baldovan can be compared to Nil Nil as both explore the theme of change and the loss of familiarity and individual significance.

Both poems begin rooted in the ordinary – the first a bus stop, the second with the description of a football match. They quickly move from this to introduce surreal images - the nightmarish vision of 11:00 Baldovan and the element of absurdity in Nil Nil, where the boy’s kicking stone becomes the gallstone of a dead pilot.

What is familiar to the boys in 11:00: Baldovan is lost in the nightmare where the shop owner doesn’t know the sweets and they don’t recognise their own voices.

Similarly, in Nil Nil the once ‘familiar’ and well-known team disappears into obscurity, as does the fighter pilot, who means nothing to the boy that is kicking his gallstone around.

There are elements of language that also connect: the charred wreck of the bus in the first poem recalls the black shell of Skelly Dry Cleaners in the second.

Moreover, the description of the ruined small town where the swings have stopped and the allotments are dead directly relates to the ‘land’ the boys return to in 11:00: Baldovan with the black waves, the sherbet rain and their weird-sounding grown up voices.

The Ferryman’s Arms

11:00: Baldovan can be compared to The Ferryman’s Arms in its use of structure and mood.


Both poems use structure to develop their central theme. 11:00: Baldovan uses incremental two-line stanzas to create the sense of the journey that ends in a nightmare. Paterson uses long sentences, enjambment and the repetition of and to create the sense of drama and panic which enables the themes of growing up and of fear to be developed.

Similarly, in The Ferryman’s Arms, Paterson uses a long first stanza to establish the pool game and the player potting the black ball. The second stanza, shorter in length, makes clear the comparison with death and the poem’s theme.


Both poems portray a sinister world. 11:00: Baldovan portrays the landscape of nightmare with its unfamiliar streets, charred wreck of a bus, and the black waves of the sea. The speaker must negotiate his way through this vision.

In The Ferryman’s Arms we are also presented with an unsettling place where the speaker is drawn to the backroom and to the worn pool table with its intestinal rumble.

The second stanza then sees him waiting for the ghost-like ferry, which arrives without breaking the skin of the water. The sea in this poem is also black and foreboding.

Both poems end with a sense of doom - the black waves slowly folding in at the bottom of the familiar road in 11:00: Baldovan and the doppelganger left knocking in the balls for practice, for next time.

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