Poetry in Motion

///Poetry in Motion
Poetry in Motion 2017-10-02T20:25:33+00:00

May 2015

Walk Leader: Paul MacDougall

Two days before my first Jane’s Walk in Sydney, Nova Scotia, the proprietor of Ed’s Bookstore, one of the best and still remaining second-hand shops in Nova Scotia, asked me if I had heard of the poet Henriette Clarke. I hadn’t, nor had he. He had just come across a copy of a small hardcover 1934 book of hers called Little Towns, which included a block-print illustration she did on the cover. As a writer I couldn’t resist buying it. Ed also gave me a copy of Old Sydney Town, a book of drawings of historic local buildings.

That night, I read Henriette’s poetry and decided to read some along the walk. Her writing certainly reflected the city she lived in at the time. The next day I roamed throughout the north-end of Sydney planning my route- there are a number of great old buildings to look at, featuring different architectural styles from 100 to over 200 years ago. I was always enamoured by one majestic, old brick building with a huge stone chimney on the front.

The home was built by the son of James Clarke who started the Sydney Foundry and Dry Docks, a very successful business that operated for decades on the Sydney waterfront. James Clarke owned a home across the street from the brick mansion, built by his son Wilfred. Wilfred’s wife was Henriette Clarke, the poet and artist of the aforementioned book.

On our Jane’s Walk the next day we read Henriette’s poems in front of Ed’s bookstore, in our local library and along the harbour. Debra, a local area poet, finished off the day reading one of Henriette’s poems in the north-end in front of Northgate, the old Clarke home.

 

Little Towns
Henriette Clarke

 

On gay mornings, foreign craft

Bring to the port their load

And the claque of wooden sabots sounds

Along the cobbled road.

Strange scents, strange tongues

Bring joy and mystery …

Little towns are never lonely

If they’re by the sea.

 

On grey mornings, old men sit

And rub tobacco in hardened hand

While telling tales of long ago

They look away from the land,

The youth of the village listens well

As they think of days to be …

Little towns are never lonely

If they’re by the sea.

 

Evening sunsets, afterglow

Long grey shadows creep,

As yellow sails of anchored fleet

Are molten gold in the deep;

And figures of lovers are patterned

And blended against the sky,

In the cool of evening scudding home

The native sea-birds fly.

 

Ah hear the patter of children’s feet

As they run the docks so free …

Little towns are never lonely

If they’re by the sea.

 

From the poetry collection Little Towns by H. Clarke

(Poetry Publishers, Philadelphia, PA, 1934)

 

  1. Clarke was born in Sydney Nova Scotia and was a painter known for sea-scape oils as well as a poet.