Week 4 Poem Post

A Holderness Beach

This week it is easy to find a theme. I miss the sea. I miss the predictable and erratic personality of the tides. Of course it can be about fish and chips, sunburn, rip tides and rolling your skirts up into your knickers and paddling. We start with a gentle reminiscence and Ian Parks poem


It must be all of forty years
and still I think I’ve found the exact spot:
the spa the colour of wet sand

and rock-pools strewn with bladder-wrack.
An ice-cream melts into the crevice of my hand.
I pick my way among the rocks,

the giant pebbles bleached and pocked.
This is where my parents stopped to kiss –
a quintet playing thirties jazz,

old men in faded deck-chairs listening
my mother flustered as I turned to look.
The spa is held in place by scaffolding.

I blink at the sun and shade my eyes.
There are no landmarks on this empty beach.
There is no safe way back.

It would be easy to think of the sea’s awesome power but what about the ordinary tides that smooth the sand. Here is very early English sonnet

Edmund Spenser, from Amoretti LXXV.

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
‘Vain man,’ said she, ‘that dost in vain assay,
A mortal thing so to immortalize;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wiped out likewise.’

And that desire to see the sea that I have is not new. Here is a poem you will be familiar with.

Sea Fever 


I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, 

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by; 

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, 

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking. 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide 

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; 

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying, 

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying. 

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, 

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife; 

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, 

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over. 

Perhaps you see the sea as a dangerous place. How familiar are we with this deceptively humorous poem by Stevie Smith. An interesting way to remind us that all we see may not be so.

Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,   
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought   
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,   
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always   
(Still the dead one lay moaning)   
I was much too far out all my life   
And not waving but drowning.

And finally a lovely poem from the collection Nigh-No-Place. the title of the poem is a Shetlandic word meaning slack of the tide .

Daed-traa by Jen Hadfield

I go to the rockpool at the slack of the tide
to mind me what my poetry’s for.

It has its ventricles, just like us –
pumping brine, like bull’s blood, a syrupy flow.

It has its theatre –
hushed and plush.

It has its Little Shop of Horrors.
It has its crossed and dotted monsters.

It has its cross-eyed beetling Lear.
It has its billowing Monroe.

I go to the rockpool at the slack of the tide
to mind me what my poetry’s for.

For monks, it has barnacles
to sweep the broth as it flows, with fans,
grooming every cubic millimetre.

It has its ebb, the easy heft of wrack from rock,
like plastered, feverish locks of hair.

It has its flodd.
It has its welling god
with puddled, podgy cheeks and jaw.

It has its holy hiccup.

Its minute’s silence


I go to the rockpool at the slack of the tide
to mind me what my poetry’s for.

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