Terra firma

I have not stepped onto the dock
From the sea-swept deck
Of an Atlantic trawler
After a frozen, fearful night
Hauling nets from the jealous depths
Watching each wave, wondering
If my name is written
On its foam-streaked slopes.

But sitting warm, dram in hand,
I gaze out over heaving seas unseen
I crossed to reach this friendly, well-loved shore
And weigh the journey’s labour in my limbs;
Wonder at my own good fortune
And feel again the salt sting on my face.


I drafted this in Brittany, over a well-earned drop of single malt, as a piece of free verse: when I wrote it up back home, it turned itself into this experimental kind-of-a-sonnet. Basic structure is per the Shakespearean original (14 lines, octet/volta/sestet) but I’ve dispensed with iambic pentameter and rhyme. Thoughts? N.

3 thoughts on “Terra firma

  1. It’s very pleasing, Nick. You are writing with a greater freedom these days. Here you have made free with metre and rhyme, but your sonnet keeps to the essentials of compression in 14 lines and crucially the ‘turn’ after the octet, and – since you ask – it works.

  2. This goes along with a long tradition, Nick. You probably know that. This is a wonderful poem that follows the sonnet conventions, but is not a traditional sonnet. I have read some wonderful works in this tradition, including some of the “sonnets” by Seamus Heany. This certainly proudly stands in that tradition.

  3. Nick, you haven’t been posting for awhile. Please don’t go away. I have a gift for you, but don’t have your address. It’s not much, just two chapbooks I did for workshops that include two of your sonnets, but I would like you to have them. Can you email me at davisetheltom@gmail.com and send me your address them so that I can mail them? Thanks, Tom

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