Unlike many who write about Newfoundland and
the sea, poet David Benson is a seaman as well as
a long time political activist. He and his family live
an age-old tradition, yet must deal with a political
system that discourages thought in the present and
encourages an ''unremembering'' of the past.
Avoiding romanticism, he speaks with an
authenticity born of experience and his voice is one
that will not abide the common cant, the generally
accepted, or the 'easy way out'. From whimsical
speculation about ''going ashore on the Moon'' to
the conspiratorial drama of the ''Manus'', David's
poems give us unique insights into the beauty and
tragedy of life at sea, the joy of returning home, the
unceasing struggles, the failures and the personal
triumphs that have made the men ''able and strong''
and the women ''mighty''.
Just as his poems of the sea wash the shoreline of
our experiences, David's poems of the past reveal
their intimate and often overlooked connection to
About the Author
David Lindsay Benson was born in St. John's, Newfoundland, in 1956, the son of a Southside longshoreman and a school-teacher from Grand Bank. He finished high school in the city and after a semester at university, was educated at sea.
One of Newfoundland's seaman-poets, his work has been published in literary journals, popular periodicals, and community newspapers throughout the island, and in publications in Canada, the United States, and Britain. It has been broadcast on CBC Radio and recorded on lp record, cassette, and cd.
A committed trade unionist, social activist, husband and father, he lives in Tors Cove with his wife, their two children and cat.
And We Were Sailors
And pirates and smugglers and outlaws
and rebels and mummers and wreckers
and salvers and shepherds and witches
and healers and hunters of birds and bears,
caribou and seals and fish and great whales
and there is magic in us.
The magic of fog and wind and sea and ice,
boggy ponds and peat lined gullies,
barrens and marshes and gnarled woods,
shapes and colours changing in the dusk
and dawn - blue hills and purple bracken
and shadows - of stunted, wind blasted trees;
crunnick and starrigan and tuckamore.
Shadows of people:
our men, able and strong
but our women, mighty.
We know the sky, the tides and the moon's power.
Our houses feel the fingers of the wind
and stairs creak with the tread of dripping fetches -
our people lost at sea.
From off black headlands, their schooners
stand on now, against the gales,
are manned by crews whose bones are food for fish.
Ghosts walk here
and here gallop the dogs of lore.
We listen in the darkness.
The rote from the barrisway - the sea's rote,
constant . . . like background music,
a tune familiar, that will not die.
Listen . . .
Listen . . .
Mark what ye have heard.