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New Hampshire Poet Showcase
From NH Poet Laureate, Walter E. Butts

At my request, the NH Arts Council is providing me with a link to the poet laureate page on their website in order that I may continue to showcase poems by a number of New Hampshire Poets. The poets will be by my invitation only, but I plan to include those who are seriously working at their craft from many areas of the state.

Featured Poet: Nancy Sullivan Stewart, Pembroke

Nancy Sullivan StewartNancy grew up in Concord. Her poems have appeared in the literary journal, Bone and Flesh, and in the Seacoast Writers Association anthology, Currents V. She is a member of the Concord Yogurt Poets and a past member of the Portsmouth City Hall poets. She lives in Pembroke, with her husband and their grown daughter’s cat.

This poem, The Ninth Wave (Bone & Flesh, #16), began at the ocean near Tillamook, Oregon. Too cold for swimming, but warm enough to stay awhile, I noticed some waves were much bigger than others and started counting those in-between thinking there might be a pattern. My father-in-law, who had served in the Coast Guard during WWII, was with us and when asked, thought it was either the 7th or the 9th ones that were supposed to be the biggest. My observations that day were inconclusive. However, like seeing pregnant women everywhere you go when you’re pregnant, the next week I came across an article about scientists who had debunked the belief in common lore that in a series of ocean waves the 9th waves are biggest. A survey of my Robert Graves’ books and the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable also turned up some references to 9th waves. A little time spent daydreaming and I had the start of a poem. I placed the poem in Oregon, both because that is where it germinated and, since it’s a love poem, because my husband is from Oregon. Once I had finished the poem, I sent a copy to my sister in London. A couple of weeks later, on a business trip to Russia, she found herself going through a package of postcards she’d bought at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. There, spread out on the bed, to decide which to send to whom, was Ivan Aivazovsky’s 1850 painting of a boat in a rough sea titled, The Ninth Wave (1850).

The Ninth Wave

Wave after wave, each mightier than the last
Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep...
--From Idylls of the King, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

My arm, at night,
resting on your chest
moves up and down.
Fast and choppy
at first, like wakes
made by motorboats.
Then slower,
like Oregon hemlocks
we’ve stood under
as they swayed.
A whole forest of them
in unison.
Until only my hand
rises and falls
like driftwood
over swells. You rest,
I lie, awake and still
counting your breaths,
the ninth ones
are deepest.




Click here for a list of previous Poet Showcases

Last updated: September 7, 2011

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