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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Poetry of Marine Life

Just like the past, the future is connected to what happens in our natural world. As we watch the daunting cleanup of the BP oil spill off the Louisiana coastline, it brings to mind a heartbreak from the past, the Exxon Valdez spill. In the poem "Cry" from Marine Life (2010), a new collection out this month, the Exxon Valdez spill is addressed, sadly, 2o-odd years later, just in time for our current crisis:
. . .Tiny sea otters
smeared with oil,
are shown kindnesses;
nuzzled like babies
to mother’s breast,
given a rhythmic,
warm massage,
slow, gentle baths
in azure soap streaks.
Elixir of life,
the dish liquid Dawn.

. . .Can dish soap relieve pain
that comes from without?
Grief that smarts and sows
a slippery black ache?

. . .Twenty years later,
hard-bitten fishermen
of such oiled seas
still don’t cry.
Or maybe they do. Maybe they prefer to hide their tears.

Stirred by her lifelong interest in the beauty and lessons of the marine world—interests born as she watched The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau in her grandmother’s living room—author Karen S. Williams composed Marine Life: A World in Poems. It is her hope to give readers, poetry and nature lovers, environmentalists, and everyday humans a meditative collection that dares them to respect and care for the natural world. Let us hope it will not take us another 20 years to finally understand this message.