HMS Warrior viewed from Portsmouth Harbour

Darkside Portside

Darkside Portside is a digital poetry trail celebrating the darker history of Portsea. Fourteen poetry films were selected, all of which can be viewed online. The best way to experience them however is through the Dark Side Port Side Walk. You can find full details here:

Thanks must go to John Sackett and Big Adventures for creating and running this really enjoyable project.

My poem, of Whales and Mermaids, was turned into a film by Marta Paslerova, and can be found on the map towards the far end of Queen Street. Do look at the other films as well though – they are all very, very different, and have a real range of styles and content. It might be interesting to read the poem first and then see how it has been interpreted in film – or watch the film first and see how it compares on the page. These types of multi-media collaborations are always interesting , as the poem is only really the starting point for the film maker’s skill and imagination.

Of Whales and Mermaids

So we trawled the world in search of myth,
watched dolphins leap waves from ferries to Normandy,
saw orca chase herring off the Lofoten isles,
imagined minke in the mist of the Labrador Sea,
and mermaids not narwhal under a high Arctic sun.

Now ship models in bottles are trinkets of time,
like pen and ink pictures on corridor walls,
the ghosts of scrapped ships and the ghosts of their dead
from the barriers at Whale Island to the remaining grey hulls,
and only one outfitter left now the rest have all gone.

So we scour the city in search of our past
as the tallow burns down on wonder and dreams,
till microfilm from paper is all we have left,
as stories in books become words on a screen
and gold leaf on rooftops means more and more less.

Running down Queen Street and on to The Hard
the route of all monarchs all of them bar one,
past dull council blocks and bright luxury towers,
a gilded tomorrow and history struck dumb
and only one outfitter left for the fleet.

And he is still there if not in that shot
as the memories of old sailors pipe the retreat,
out past the Victory and on to Spithead,
a review of ghost ships in a lucidity of thought
dripping in braid and faces and names.

Like listening to orca in some long-distant fjord,
the clicks of their sonar so out of our depth
we stand close together yet so far apart,
harpooned to this future and gasping for breath
lost to a language we can’t understand.

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