Boat season is coming! I promise. Even if you are not a boater yourself, a dock is a lovely place to hang out and watch the comings and goings.

Of course, it’s always boat season for the work boats, but even they need a rest once in a while as witnessed at the Front Street Shipyard. Before too long, all the sloops, schooners, catboats, kayaks, runabouts, inflatables, power boats, catamarans, dinghies, dories, and lobster yachts will be back on the water.

What’s a lobster yacht, you may ask. Known as the Downeast style, it starts with a sturdy lobster boat hull known for its stability in all kinds of conditions, which is then trimmed out up top as a pleasure boat, sometimes with quarters down below. It makes for a smooth and fast ride for vacationers. Lobster yachts are an important part of the bread and butter of many Maine boatbuilders these days.

This time of year, many boats are shrink-wrapped or under blue tarps or up on jack stands. You can see them not just in boatyards but next to houses, sprouting in hayfields, and in the parking lots of seasonal restaurants. On their stands, they can look like giant, spider-legged prehistoric creatures or beings from another galaxy.

Poet and printmaker Leslie Moore chose one of these beasts for her poem, “Sloop.” She was inspired by a show at Waterfall Arts featuring a fleet of sailboat woodcuts done by Julia Talcott, a Massachusetts printmaker. Leslie says, “I, too, am a relief printmaker and I loved these prints, especially the one titled ‘Extraterrestrial.’ I wrote my poem about this print.”

The practice of writing poetry from a piece of visual art is an old one, given by the Greeks the name of ekphrasis. The Poetry Foundation describes it this way: “An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the ‘action’ of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.” In recent years, the term has come to mean any kind of response or inspiration from a work of art and its effect on the poet. In fact, the artwork itself may never actually be in the poem.

Leslie did expand and amplify her impression of the woodcut. She layered her own sense of imagination onto it, giving us readers a larger view. She notes, “Since almost all of my poems and artwork gravitate towards animals, I added a whale’s belly, a shark’s fin, and a giant pelagic bird.”

 

Sloop

Whale bellied,

shark-fin keeled,

propped on its

spindle-legged

jack stands,

the beached sloop

looks more

aerodynamic

than seaworthy,

like a giant

pelagic bird

ready to cast off

from its pool of shadow

in the Front Street Shipyard

and soar over Penobscot Bay.

Linda Buckmaster was Belfast's poet laureate from 2009 to 2011.