April 3, 2013

button for National Poetry Writing Month

Day 3: sea shanty.

The Singing County

Sandstone, flushed as though the wind whispers compliments, carves them into the rock.
Step wrong in the graveyard, and the cliff drops straight into the open throat of waves.
Follow the curved tongue of the causeway, behind the teeth of the Mount, try to hear the secrets.
This is a speaking country, a singing county
where the language is dying,
where the voice of the sea
drowns mine.


Those who know me will be able to pinpoint the source of much of this poem — my first trip to Cornwall, England, in 2009. One of the most gorgeous, extraordinary, inspiring places I’ve ever been, one of the places I am drawn back to.

I have a really hard time writing poetry with a regular meter or rhyme scheme, so today’s NaPoWriMo prompt sea shanty was not going to work for me in a literal form. Instead I chose to write about a place where the sea itself, the industries of it, shapes everything.

(The Cornish language is one of the Brythonic Celtic languages; it was declared no longer extinct by UNESCO in 2010, and you can hear Cornish poet Pol Hodge read one of his works on YouTube.)