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A poem by Lynne Hjelmgaard

I first met Lynne Hjelmgaard at a Brighton Stanza meeting, and knew straight away she was a poet I wanted to hear more of and would enjoy workshopping with. Lynne has had an extraordinary, almost nomadic background – from New York via Denmark, Paris, Rome, London and the sea. The range of her experience and poetic wisdom is an inspiration to me, and I’m very pleased to have one of her poems on my blog.

The poem reproduced here is from A Boat Called Annelise, a sequence based on a period in Lynne’s life when she lived on a boat and sailed around the world. It’s beautiful and dreamlike, yet grounded in vivid, lived detail.

Because of the beauty of the ship herself

When we found her
it happened quickly,
when we left her
it felt like a divorce.

We had worked our way into Annalise:
the pungent smell of her deep shadowy bilge;
dawn-walks to showers
in mouldy leather shoes.

(Wet on the trip in
wet on the trip out.)

Annalise peeled away
layers of ourselves.
Old meandering patterns
shed like unwanted winter clothes.

We learned to care
for her bronze, steel and wood,
devotedly washed and rubbed
all her curves and corners.

Her decks cracked and creaked,
rigging throbbed and hummed,
sails fluttered and snapped,
hull pounded and leapt,

the booming sea-roar crouching to pounce,
until Annalise lifted her heavy rounded stern
in the very last unbalanced moment,
and reduced seawater to slush.

In harbour, ships’ wakes and rolls
rocked us sleepily secure,
water gurgled under her hull
like gentle, shaking bells.
We slept ’til she opened our ears
to all natural sounds.

Our ship made music.
Our ship was music.


Lynne Hjelmgaard‘s latest book, The Ring, was published with Shearsman Books in 2011. Her new sequence, A Boat Called Annalise, was a runner-up in the 2012 Poetry Wales Purple Moose Pamphlet Competition.

Published inBooksInspirationPoems

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Robin Houghton 2021