Four Ways of Looking at the Coast

This week we’re visiting the coast, that vibrant boundary zone, or ecotone, that has proved as intensely alive imaginatively as it has ecologically. Rachel Carson reminds us that ‘the edge of the sea remains an elusive and indefinable boundary’. At once immense yet intimate, hypnotic yet reviving, isolating yet exposing, the coast is a place complex contradictions. In new poems here from Anthony Wilson, Matt Howard, Stephen Siperstein and Fred Pollack we find four novel ways of exploring the many faces of the water’s edge.




by Anthony Wilson

after Terry Frost, for Kate Brindley


ooooooooooooooooooooooooo soft slap

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooo blue lap

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo salt flap


ooooooooooooooo of water

oooooooooooo on wood

ooooooooo on water


oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cold sea

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo knocking


oooooooooooooooooooooo old boat

oooooooooooooooooooooooooo rocking


oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo the salt slap

ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo wave tap

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo blue map


ooooooooooooooooo new gap


oooooooooooooooooooooo of morning







by Matt Howard


You surface on a pillow of salt water,

the squall of your breath swirls,

an Atlantic gyre in a shell –


distance and its echo.

Already you have risen through fathoms,

innumerable leagues of scurvy hours,


with teeth loose in their rigging,

your lips cracked and unstaunched;

now the jaundiced moon is in its poorest quarter.


You are clear of the inclemency of sleep.

The North Star wavers through the window,

the memory of its bearing like a buoy,


a legacy of brightness,

insisting through the years’ latitudes:

Hold this one course, follow me.








by Stephen Siperstein


The sea stars are rotting.

Thousands of them, maybe millions

Losing pieces of themselves to a world

Where the invisible flings the visible

Like a small wind shorn craft.


Sometimes beside a dark pool

We kneel, try to count the bodies—

Yellows, purples, greens—before they melt

Into grey chum.  Sometimes we turn

Away; sometimes we bargain.


I am told that though most stars die

On occasion the young ones fight back

Against their cells’ own wasting.  I am told,

And half-believe, that some can grow their limbs

Again and again, and again and again

Watch them crawl off

becoming nothing.







by Fred Pollack


oooIt isn’t abandoned – only

the humans have stepped aside for a moment,

ooowhich lasts.  Only a moment

ago, little brown soldiers

ooowere shooting little brown people almost with

embarrassment, ignoring

ooopolite elaborate pleas: all gone, now.

Behind the dunes.

oooWithout echo.

Containers wait on docks like thick hyphens.

oooTwo-story jetliners, blue as sky and sea,

relax on runways

oooin sight of the sea, embodying

power and flight and deals and sex and perfection.

oooAn oil rig admires its reflection.

Fins break the water.

oooDry palm fronds make a noise like snow.

Monkeys and birds spend

ooothe afternoon reproving some infraction.


The people I’m sure will return in a moment,

ooowhich lasts.  I walk the shoreline

unanxious that they will come back or won’t,

ooothat the crystal silence

will break – it’s more plastic,

ooothat rot will spread

through the hut, blight over the fruit, toxic bloom

oooin the ocean.  Tankers, freighters and pirates

even now make their way

oooamong Rio and Capetown, Long Beach, Singapore.

The world, cramped and fretful,

ooocan easily miss

a part of itself.  How often, writing a

ooopoem or merely living, does one

misplace entire themes, vital images;

ooowhy shouldn’t the system at large be as forgetful?


The monkeys and the wind drop coconuts

oooI paint with amusing faces

and arrange on shelves.

oooSea-nymphs deliver driftwood, which I sculpt.

Beer on ice, shutter raised,

ooopayoffs ready, spider-eggs riding

on filaments, the jetstream between continents,

oooI await the tourists and the tide.







Anthony Wilson is a poet, writing tutor, blogger and Senior Lecturer at the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter. His most recent books are Riddance (Worple Press, 2012) and a prose memoir of cancer, Love for Now (Impress Books, 2012). He is the editor of the forthcoming Lifesaving Poems (Bloodaxe, 2015), based on his blog of the same name. A researcher in the field of poetry in education, he is co-editor of Making Poetry Matter (Bloomsbury, 2013) and Making Poetry Happen (Bloomsbury, 2015).
Matt Howard lives in Norwich,  where he works for RSPB. Matt is also a steering group member of New Networks for Nature, an eco-organisation that asserts the central importance of landscape and nature in our cultural life. His debut pamphlet, The Organ Box, has just been published by Eyewear Publishing. He was part of this year’s Aldeburgh 8 at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.

Stephen Siperstein is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Oregon where he is completing his dissertation on climate change narratives in U.S. environmental literature and culture.  His poetry has appeared in saltfront, Poecology, ISLE, and elsewhere, and he is currently editing a pedagogical volume, Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities, forthcoming from Routledge.  He also is co-director of The Climate Stories Project, an online forum for sharing personal stories about climate change.



Fred Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure and Happiness, both published by Story Line Press.  Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology(Ireland), Representations, Magma (UK), Bateau, Fulcrum, Chiron Review, etc.  Online, poems have appeared inBig Bridge, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire  Review, Mudlark, etc.  Recent Web publications in Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Camel Saloon, Kalkion, Gap Toothed Madness, Hark (UK),. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.


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Bev Newman Rommensreply
May 9, 2015 at 3:00 pm

A beautiful lyrical sequence. Thank you 🙂

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