Throughout 2011, Sea Swimmers swam in Scarborough's
South Bay as part of imove, the Cultural Olympiad
Programme in Yorkshire. They were led bravely into the
waves by poet John Wedgwood Clarke, whose eighteen-
poem sequence inspired by this experience was collected in
book form and published by Valley Press.
The poems explore the fluent, fragile and sometimes
agonisingly pleasurable relationship between the swimmer,
the land and the sea around Scarborough; how swimming
transforms the way we feel ourselves to be in our bodies,
and the liberating effects these changes have on the
imagination. Sea Swim may be as close as you can get to
swimming in the sea without donning a wetsuit.
Praise for John Wedgwood Clarke and Sea Swim:
"His work is amongst the best to have emerged from new
poets in this country over the past two or three years."
— Simon Armitage, on JWC's shortlisting for the 2010
Manchester Poetry Prize
"I am thrilled to be patron of this simple and simply
beautiful idea. Poetry is going down to the sea again."
— Carol Ann Duffy
'Your wake complicates mine. / Our footprints dream in the tide.'
Published: 16th April 2012
Catalogue number: VP0029
Number of pages: 26
Cover photograph by Lara Goodband
are small wooden stanzas
in which words undress
and step from the damp
boards and sixty-watt bulbs
into colossal light,
blinking, rubbing arms,
lifting a little on their toes
as if trying to see over the cold,
ready as they will never be
for the body to speak itself again
for the first time
in the mouth of the North Sea,
the body like a bell note
struck by an iron key,
wordless in a furl of murk,
weed, someone’s foot,
and up, shouting, turnstones
overhead, the Hispaniola
rocking by, treading water
back into now, rooted
in all the strange words –
children, parents –
in hands that have held
and let go, swimmers in song.
'souls are exhaled from moist things'
The sea has chilled and cockled this book.
Words migrate through its pages:
both doors of the chalet are open; the horizon
a lightly tapped tuning fork.
There’s nothing to record but your absence.
A tiny spider, auburn-legged, light
as sea foam, sews along the table’s aluminium edge.
I write in absentia, snow on the sea.
John Wedgwood Clarke grew
up in St Ives, Cornwall. He
works as a freelance writer
and editor, and is a lecturer in