Wood to Skin (forthcoming)

My third manuscript, “Wood to Skin,” features poems about the 19th-century whaling industry, with highlights from experiences detailed in the logbook of the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling vessel left in existence, preserved and maintained at Mystic Seaport.

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A page from the logbook of the Charles W. Morgan, 1910.

During the summer of 2014, Mystic Seaport completed restoration work on the Morgan, and sailed her up the New England coast, in what became known as the 38th Voyage.

As one of 85 “38th Voyagers” selected to participate in the voyage, I spent one night and one “leg” of the journey onboard the whaler, taking part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse myself in a sensory experience similar to that of 19th-century whalers.

These experiences continue to influence and affect my poetry, as I work to capture both the perilous incidents and everyday life onboard a wooden whaleship, while maintaining a sensitivity to the contemporary understanding and relationship between humans and whales.

For more information on the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan click here.

The New London, CT newspaper The Day featured an interview with me about my manuscript and my involvement in the Voyage.

Click here for a view of the First Leg of the journey, on which I was onboard.

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Singing chanteys with fellow voyager.

The title, “Wood to Skin,” is taken from a rare and dangerous maneuver where the whalers would aim to row the whaleboat directly onto a harpooned whale to deliver the final blow with a lance.

 

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Taking a turn at the helm.

To me this phrase also reflects the humanness of the whalers, their relationship to each other, and to the vessel  on which they spent years of their lives sailing around the world.

Sample Poem:

lost at sea

Mr. Howland overboard Oars were thrown then and waste boat
cleared away… he went down before we could get to him.
–Logbook, 12/1/1881, Charles W. Morgan

the beige smooth of driftwood
outstretched as though reaching still
toward fractured waves curling
onto a fog-laden
shore cold light
reflects off the small glass
bud vase rose-less
in this winter’s dusk

the whaleman’s cup
long empty a dented tin haven
brimmed with gossamer
cobwebs tilted on its side handle
to the splintered table top like an ear
listening for the cries of gulls

Poem originally appeared as part of the exhibit, Poetry of the Wild ~ Mystic, on display at Mystic Seaport, 2013.  Also published in Coastal Connecticut Magazine, summer issue, 2014. 

 

In 2015 I was appointed Writer-in-Residence at the Avery-Copp House in Groton, CT, where I spent the summer developing drafts for this manuscript.  I would like to thank the Avery-Copp House staff and Board for this opportunity.

With gratitude to Mystic Seaport for their support of this manuscript by selecting me as a 38th Voyager.

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