Great Lakes Poetry Gathering

A regional poetry program with a maritime theme, covering the broad geographic and natural themes of the Great Lakes, including weather, shorelines, marshes, bays, and rivers; shorebirds, waterfowl, and migrations; and, the maritime history aspect of ships, boats, boat building, sailing, voyageurs, and lighthouses.

*Please note: Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, our previously scheduled program for the end of April will be postponed until next year. However, please enjoy a selection of poems that echo the themes of our poetry gathering. We look forward to seeing you in 2021.*


St. Marys River

His childhood was edged with fence lines
and planted with hollyhocks,
which his mother sometimes cut
and brought inside to a table
in the kitchen where the floor never
pitched and dishes never slid.
Once a year, his father took him fishing.
He imagined the line as a kind of taproot,
a fish as a kind of tuber.
After he shipped out on the Henry Steinbrenner,
he saw plow furrows in the wake of the boat—
a dark, churned field that did not smell
of the earth. Every day, he looked beyond
that wake for the shade of the maple tree
where he liked to rest at noon with a jug
of buttermilk. He muttered in his sleep,
too wet to plow, too wet to plow,
and woke one night to a violent thump.
Thrown from a horse, he thought,
but the chief engineer was yelling
to put out the fires so the boilers
would not explode. His head
was waterlogged. He shook it, thinking
something would sprinkle out—rain
from his mother’s watering can.
Someone ordered him to pull burning coals
from the fire boxes, which he did
because he had always loved
simple tasks. He piled coals
on the steel deck, carrying them almost gently,
pretending they were newly hatched chicks.


-- Cindy Hunter Morgan
    from Harborless, Wayne State University Press

used with permission, from Harborless, by Cindy Hunter Morgan, published by Wayne State University Press


blessing the boats                                                 Lucille Clifton
          (at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back      may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that




The Poleman’s Song
Christine Eggleston

Cattails and herons, hip boots and a spear;
a flat-bottomed boat, and a long pole to steer.
Push off from the dock, pull strong through the marsh,
lean low at the bridge, and glide under the arch.

The boat settles down.
What’s left in its wake is the sound of sunset
across the still lake.
Quiet. Quiet.
Shhh…hear the owl?

An old Coleman lantern hisses and glows,
silhouette shadows in the water below.
While bullfrogs sing, the spring peepers hum
the blackbird refrain to the poleman’s song:

Knee-deep, knee-deep; no deeper, no deeper
Go ‘round, around, you better go ‘round.