“Ship’s Log”

In “Ship’s Log”, David Punter has harvested extracts from the letters and diaries of former SS Great Britain passengers and crew written during 19th Century voyages from the UK mainly to Australia, and used them as a kind of ‘jumping off point’ for poetic responses which attempt to echo the essence of the letters and diaries.

Given the source material it is perhaps inevitable that some of the poems are more successful than others – but at their best they are very good (for example in “Colours of the Sea”). In any event the book is a laudable undertaking, and clearly a labour of love. Both the poems and their sources paint vivid pictures of the perils of 19th century ocean travel, and it seems remarkable that the ship itself should still survive, now functioning as a museum in Bristol.

Given a sometime-exponent of the form, I can’t help but wonder what a somewhat stricter ‘found poetry’ approach would have made of the extracts used.

If you like poetry set within a specific historical context, then you might enjoy “Ship’s Log”.

Reading List