Sign In using your Campus Account

Voices of the Sea

People – and especially poets – have always been fascinated by the sea.

We see it as a powerful metaphor for strong emotion or for the unconscious. We are drawn by its power, its changing moods, its promise of adventure. There are many ways in which we look at the sea. And those are the journeys I invite you to take with me on my upcoming course Voices of the Sea.

First, we’ll look at the sea from a literal perspective, that of the voyager, sailor or fisherman, or the watcher from the shore. We’ll see how it has the power to transmute language into something ‘rich and strange’ with Keats, Causley, and Walcott as our guides:

                        Now his eyes are bright farthings

                                   And he spindles

                        In seas deeper than death.

                                   His lips are no longer wet with wine

                        But gleam with green salt

                                   And the Gulf Stream is his breath.

(‘Rattler Morgan’, Charles Causley)

Next, we will explore the seas within the human psyche – rich in myth and archetype – in the company of Helen Dunmore, Ted Hughes, and others:

                                   It was on the inside

                                   Of the wave he chose

                                   To meditate endlessly

                                   Without words or song,

                                   And so he lay down

                                   To watch it at eye-level,

                                   About to topple

                                   About to be whole.

(‘Inside the Wave’, Helen Dunmore)

We’ll go on to meet some of the amazing creatures who make the sea their home, sharing the close observation of poets like Elizabeth Bishop and Susan Richardson:

                                   through you

                                   we can see

                             mudsuck  moontug

                                the bore’s gulp

                                     and reach

(‘glass’, Susan Richardson)

We will face the reality of how the sea today has been impacted by climate change and pollution, and explore what that means for its inhabitants and for the sea as a whole. Poets have been speaking out prophetically on behalf of the eco-system for hundreds of years – their voices are becoming louder but also more needed today. As Seamus Heaney wrote:

                                   We hang charmed

                                   On the trembling catwalk:

                                   What can fend us now

                                   Can soothe the hurt eye

                                   Of the sun …

(‘Augury’, Seamus Heaney)

These are not separate journeys. They knot together like strands of seaweed. Together, they weave a celebration of the sea, of those who have loved it and those who live in it, as well as a grieving for what has been or will be lost. So, at the end of the course, we’ll look at how these poems speak to each other, their cross-currents and tributaries. There will be a chance to share our own favourite sea poems.

Throughout, we’ll be launching our own poem-boats, whether canoes or galleons, casting our nets into the inner sea from which all poems come.


Book here  for Jennie Osborne’s Face-to-Face Course   Voices of the Sea.

Add your Reply