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‘On Dunwich Beach’ by Fiona Moore and a new writing prompt from Ben Rogers

Today’s poem from Fiona Moore’s pamphlet The Only Reason for Time is set in Dunwich, a small coastal village located a few miles north of Aldeburgh. The poem’s persistent refrain “for you” develops and builds through the couplets, while echoing the rhythm of the North Sea’s “raids” against the shore.

At Poetry in Aldeburgh: Fiona Moore will introduce the Rialto Autumn launch on Saturday 5th November, featuring Hannah Lowe and other poets at 4-5pm in the Peter Pears gallery.

On Dunwich Beach

The brown sea raids the shore, where you lie not far
inland. I crouch on wet shingle, undressing for you.

I plunge in, slipping where the ground falls away,
gasping at the icy cold: now I’m swimming for you

though you’d never have swum in this, and I know it
but raise my head with the swell, searching for you.

Waves rock the pale horizon. I could swim on
until my heart falters and I’m dying for you

but I’d never find you. The water’s embrace jolts,
heaves, lulls me … I kick hard, breathing for you

through strands of hair … The drab land calls, the sea
spits me out – numb, dripping salt, living for you.

from The Only Reason for Time (Happenstance, 2013)


Writing Prompt of the Day: Dunwich Erasure

About a millenium ago, in the 11th Century, Dunwich was one of the biggest ports on the East Coast of Britain, with a sixth of the then population of London. Now, following storms and extensive coastal erosion, Dunwich is a small village whose total number of inhabitants hovers around 100. Dunwich is sometimes referred to as Britain’s Atlantis, there reportedly being an extensive range of medieval buildings concealed by the sea. There is a popular local legend that says at certain tides church bells can be heard beneath the waves. In the spirit of this widespread erosion, today’s exercise is to craft an erasure poem, created by removing words from an existing text. The text you should use is one of H Rider Haggard’s novels Red Eve (1911), a 14th-Century swashbuckler romance that includes scenes of the famous battle of Crécy in 1346, and numerous references to Dunwich, appropriately including the line “the sea has robbed us at Dunwich where I was born, taking our great house and sundry streets” in Chapter 1. Select a page from the novel and obscure or ‘erase’ words until you are left with your poem.

The entire novel Red Eve is available here via the Dunwich Museum and Project Gutenberg:

Additionally, if you want to see an example of an entire ‘erasure’ novel, and haven’t seen it already, it is worth looking at Tom Phillips’s epic A Humument:

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Image Credits:

Dunwich Beach: Ian Patterson