NSRI advertisement: Sea Fever

Here’s something beautiful: a NSRI advertisement that reminds us of the wonder and enchantment to be experienced down by the ocean, and the work done by the NSRI, serving everyday water users and making the ocean a safer place to be. The poem that is read in the voice over is Sea Fever by John Masefield. (The version I quote and the version used in this advertisement differ slightly over the inclusion – here – of the word “do” in the first line of the poem. Both versions appeared in collections of Masefield’s poetry.)

How lovely is this?

The poem is read by Tom O’Bedlam (not his real name – Roger Ebert suspected that he is someone famous), who has an amazing Youtube channel with readings of hundreds of poems.

Friday poem: The Kraken

What is a kraken? It is a legendary sea monster supposedly found in the seas off Scandinavia and Greenland. The legend probably arose from sightings of giant squid.

Here is an irregular sonnet (it has one extra line, at fifteen) on the subject. Good to read aloud.

The Kraken – Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides: above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages and will lie
Battening upon huge sea-worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Friday poem: Thumping

Nothing demanding if you don’t want it to be – just an image.

Thumping – William Corbett

Fisherman’s arm
Up and down
Like a pump handle
The old-fashioned way
Flashing a large silver
Spangle off the bottom
Where lakers lurk in August.
Barefoot Thelonious and Bruno
Run in the grass of memory.

Friday poem: Your Catfish Friend

Your Catfish Friend – Richard Brautigan

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It’s beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,”
I’d love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
at peace,
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”

Friday poem: The Fish

I really don’t like fishing.

The Fish – Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Friday poem: What to Do About Sharks

This shark, like this one, doesn’t live in the sea.

What to Do About Sharks – Vivian Shipley

1.

If a hammerhead or a great white makes
waves during your workshop or poetry reading,
don’t flap your elbows or slap at it with rolled
manuscripts. Sharks thrive on visual stimulation.

2.

Blow out candles. Ease away from the podium,
and wait at least ten minutes before going
for a light switch. Join hands to keep karma
with the other poets. It’s okay to recite
poems you memorized in fifth grade,
Joyce Kilmer, in desperation, even Longfellow.

3.

Rule of thumb: it’s a shark not a dolphin
if it is slamming about the room, hugging,
blowing air kisses. Performers, sharks
are almost all instinct and no brain. Without
a sense of occasion, they’ll crash any gig,
underwater or not, from Madagascar to Malibu.

4.

Being eyed by a shark can be exasperating,
but don’t rush or shift from foot to foot
to induce motion sickness. Sharks are immune.
They are, however, dyslexic. Flash cover quotes,
prize-winning poems directly in front of both eyes.
Better yet—stop reading. Pull your new hardback
from a knapsack, and if the shark noses you
with repeated sharp jabs, hit it on the snout.

5.

If all else fails, sharks have a keen sense
of hearing. Sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic
at the top of your lungs. Sharks have short
attention spans, get bored, leave if there is
no open mike. So, swing into another verse:
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

Friday poem: Fishmonger

Here’s something for Valentine’s day. Happy Valentime’s!

Fishmonger – Marsden Hartley

I have taken scales from off
The cheeks of the moon.
I have made fins from bluejays’ wings,
I have made eyes from damsons in the shadow.
I have taken flushes from the peachlips in the sun.
From all these I have made a fish of heaven for you,
Set it swimming on a young October sky.
I sit on the bank of the stream and watch
The grasses in amazement
As they turn to ashy gold.
Are the fishes from the rainbow
Still beautiful to you,
For whom they are made,
For whom I have set them,
Swimming?

Friday poem: The Shark

A blue shark comes to investigate
A blue shark comes to investigate

Carcharias glaucus is the blue shark. Isaac McLellan was a 19th century American poet, hence the slightly old fashioned perspective here…

The Shark – Isaac McLellan

(Carcharias glaucus.)

The seaboy sailing o’er the main,
Far-gazing o’er the watery plain,
Sees oft the black fin of the shark
Pursuing his careering bark,
Quick thro’ the ship the joyful news
Like wildfire runs from stem to stern;
From bulwark high, from sloping mast,
Leeward all eager glances turn.
The master seeks the massive hook
With iron chain and hempen line,
And soon the baited snare is out
Far trailing o’er the seething brine.

The greedy monster with a plunge
Rushes to seize the tempting bait,
And, rolling on his dusky back,
Gorges the hook and finds his fate.
Away in madden’d haste he flies,
Lashing the wave with forked tail,
But ‘gainst a score of tugging hands
His desperate strength may naught avail.
Soon bleeding on the deck, a prize,
The ruthless ocean tyrant dies.
‘Tis said in Indian seas remote,
Off the white reef of Bengal Bay,
Cruises the great man-eater shark,
Hungry and keen for human prey.
There Indian damsels dread to plunge
In combing surf and curling wave,
Fearing that terror of sharp teeth,
That jaw remorseless as the grave.
But brave the manly diver dares
With sharpen’d creese to meet his foe,
And, plung’d beneath the lurking fiend,
Stabs till the tides with slaughter flow.
So the swart diver for the pearl,
Taught from his youth to search the deeps,
With keen blade meets him in the surf,
And slays him wheresoe’er he sweeps.

Friday poem: The Shark

This is funny – we read it at school when we were children. It is good to read aloud, and it’s good to have a sense of humour sometimes.

The Shark – Lord Alfred Douglas

A treacherous monster is the Shark
He never makes the least remark.

And when he sees you on the sand,
He doesn’t seem to want to land.

He watches you take off your clothes,
And not the least excitement shows.

His eyes do not grow bright or roll,
He has astonishing self-control.

He waits till you are quite undressed,
And seems to take no interest.

And when towards the sea you leap,
He looks as if he were asleep.

But when you once get in his range,
His whole demeanour seems to change.

He throws his body right about,
And his true character comes out.

It’s no use crying or appealing,
He seems to lose all decent feeling.

After this warning you will wish
To keep clear of this treacherous fish.

His back is black, his stomach white,
He has a very dangerous bite.

Friday poem: The Sea is History

Derek Walcott won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1992. Here’s a conversation with him (there are nearly two minutes of introductions – he appears at 2.00).

The Sea is History – Derek Walcott

Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?
Where is your tribal memory? Sirs,
in that grey vault. The sea. The sea
has locked them up. The sea is History.

First, there was the heaving oil,
heavy as chaos;
then, like a light at the end of a tunnel,

the lantern of a caravel,
and that was Genesis.
Then there were the packed cries,
the shit, the moaning:

Exodus.
Bone soldered by coral to bone,
mosaics
mantled by the benediction of the shark’s shadow,

that was the Ark of the Covenant.
Then came from the plucked wires
of sunlight on the sea floor

the plangent harps of the Babylonian bondage,
as the white cowries clustered like manacles
on the drowned women,

and those were the ivory bracelets
of the Song of Solomon,
but the ocean kept turning blank pages

looking for History.
Then came the men with eyes heavy as anchors
who sank without tombs,

brigands who barbecued cattle,
leaving their charred ribs like palm leaves on the shore,
then the foaming, rabid maw

of the tidal wave swallowing Port Royal,
and that was Jonah,
but where is your Renaissance?

Sir, it is locked in them sea-sands
out there past the reef’s moiling shelf,
where the men-o’-war floated down;

strop on these goggles, I’ll guide you there myself.
It’s all subtle and submarine,
through colonnades of coral,

past the gothic windows of sea-fans
to where the crusty grouper, onyx-eyed,
blinks, weighted by its jewels, like a bald queen;

and these groined caves with barnacles
pitted like stone
are our cathedrals,

and the furnace before the hurricanes:
Gomorrah. Bones ground by windmills
into marl and cornmeal,

and that was Lamentations—
that was just Lamentations,
it was not History;

then came, like scum on the river’s drying lip,
the brown reeds of villages
mantling and congealing into towns,

and at evening, the midges’ choirs,
and above them, the spires
lancing the side of God

as His son set, and that was the New Testament.

Then came the white sisters clapping
to the waves’ progress,
and that was Emancipation—

jubilation, O jubilation—
vanishing swiftly
as the sea’s lace dries in the sun,

but that was not History,
that was only faith,
and then each rock broke into its own nation;

then came the synod of flies,
then came the secretarial heron,
then came the bullfrog bellowing for a vote,

fireflies with bright ideas
and bats like jetting ambassadors
and the mantis, like khaki police,

and the furred caterpillars of judges
examining each case closely,
and then in the dark ears of ferns

and in the salt chuckle of rocks
with their sea pools, there was the sound
like a rumour without any echo

of History, really beginning.