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Lemn Sissay
Poet + Author
Recorded at Folkestone Book Festival

Naomi Frears
The Wretch
Collage with antique Japanese paper

The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out;
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.

And stifled words and groans of pain
Mix'd on each murmuring lip,
We look'd round and we looked up
And Fear at our hearts as at a Cup,
The Life-blood seemed to sip.

The Sky was dull and dark the Night,
The Helmsman's face by his lamp gleam'd bright,
From the Sails the Dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The hornèd Moon, with one bright Star
Within the nether tip.

I'm transfixed by the story, bewitched by the tale. It’s about a man cursed to forever tell the story, trapped by a betrayal (his own) and the penance. He has learned to cast a spell to tell his story. Like any good storyteller.

It is a nature poem too, in many ways: the albatross and the reckoning. It is many things. It’s a poem about climate change, that we must look after earth and the nature within it because if we don’t, if we take the crossbow to the albatross, nature will turn against us with an almighty wrath. It is both religious and pagan, not unlike the wedding ritual at its heart. The poem says everything to me. It makes a whole lot of sense about life, living, conflict, inner turmoil and outer peace

Lemn Sissay