Port Bowen

The line went taut. My hand spun on the reel.
No fish, all snag. I waded to the shore.
On board, the wireless rasped about the war.
They had me there by nights, guarding the steel
that they were slowly breaking up. By feel
I took my footsteps through the surf, its raw
cold burning on my skin. One arm’s length more
I’d have my jig, my chance to land a meal.

The moon was in the cloud. Her face all pale
and fuzzed, she dimmed and brightened over the hulk.
And as I searched a wave crept up on me,
a sudden smack. I staggered in its bulk,
went under, thrashed my limbs to no avail.
Come into me, I’ll have you, said the sea.

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui. She is the author of three poetry collections, all published by Victoria University Press. A fourth collection is forthcoming later in 2017. Airini received a PhD in creative writing in 2016. Her thesis investigated interactions between narrative and verse form in long poems and poem sequences.

Beautrais comments: ‘“Port Bowen” is one of a series of sonnets about shipwrecks at the Whanganui river mouth. The shipwreck poems make up part of a longer sequence about the Whanganui river. While writing this sequence I was interested in investigating the possibilities of inherited forms. The Petrarchan or Italian sonnet has quite strict parameters. Historical material often comes to us through secondary sources which might be verbose and exhaustive. Using inherited form forces transformation of the material, pushing it beyond the limitations of the “found” poem and in a sense fictionalising it.’

Poem source details >


Airini’s Victoria University Press author page
Airini’s International Institute of Modern Letters PhD graduate page