Poems for the East: Suffolk

This is the first of a series of poems about East Anglia, which we are publishing to mark National Poetry Day today. The region has inspired many poets, especially in Norfolk and Suffolk. So very day for a week we are publishing one poem, covering between them all the centuries since the 16th, and all the counties of the region.

The first is  by Blake Morrison, visiting Professor of Literature at the University of Suffolk. It comes from his collection Shingle Street, set along the Suffolk coast, with poems addressing an eroding landscape, ‘abashed by the ocean’s passion’.

Covehithe-Abbey ruin
St Andrews Church Covehithe, Suffolk: photo by Astronautilus licenced under creative commons

Covehithe was once a small town with its own dock (the “hithe”). It is the place on the East coast where coastal erosion is at its fastest. The church now stands 500 yards from the cliff, but it is expected to fall into the sea within this century.


The tides go in and out
but the cliffs are stuck in reverse:
back across the fields they creep,
to the graves of Covehithe church.
From church to beach
was once a hike.
Today it's just a stroll.
Soon it'll be a stone's throw.
And that path we took
along the cliffs has itself been taken,
by winter storms.
The wheat's living on the edge.
What's to be done?
I blame the dead
in their grassy mounds,
the sailors and fishermen
longing to be back at sea
who since they can't get up
and stride down to the beach
entice the sea to come to them.

Blake Morrison

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