Natalie Scott’s debut collection of poetry, BERTH, brings together myriad diverse voices, tapping into the psyche of those affected by the sinking of the Titanic. Ambitious in its scope, Berth seems to unravel the myths that have emerged over the century since the tragedy. From the pathos of poems in the voices of the passengers who died, to the amusing reflections of the iceberg, dog and anchor, this collection commemorates those who were lost and celebrates those who survived that fateful night of 14 April 1912.
BERTH is a delightful little book of poems that are eerie and thought provoking to read. Each one is “written” by various people who are connected with the ill fated ship in some way; a builder, a passenger, a Marconi wireless operator. There are also poems authored by the ship’s cat, an anchor, and the iceberg itself. After the name of the person the reader will find out if the person was lost or saved.
Here is a sample:
James Dobbins (shipyard worker for Harland and Wolff, Belfast. During construction of ship – LOST)
I was with her through the build from the laying of keel plates to the last bristles of paint.
I considered myself lucky to be called for launch-day; many poor surplus souls went missing a day’s pay.
I’d been freeing a support from the shores just below her hull, as she strained on the workings like a feral animal tied to its post.
When the support was freed the shore pinned down my leg and I must’ve fallen unconscious as I’ve been in darkness ever since.
Please tell me, because I’m dying to know – did she make a good, safe passage to New York?
That’s the first poem in the book. As soon as I finished it I read it again and tried to imagine this poor soul in my mind. It was easy to see Titanic straining like a “feral animal” at the dock, a behemoth seeking her freedom.
Scott’s imagery is ethereal and true; the passenger’s voices reflect their station in life accurately, clearly demonstrated in the two poems Mrs Alma Palsson and Mrs Hudson JC Allison. These poems are shown side by side, a gentle hint to the reader that the emotions of the women were the same deep down inside, despite their money (or lack of it).
The connection between the poems is the emotion of the writer – some are arrogant, some are in denial, others painfully aware that their hours are numbered. The inclusion of the ship’s cat and a Newfoundland dog (both SAVED) add a touch of whimsy, despite the somber underlying tones. Scott even creates a poem in the voice of the iceberg; as much a part of history as Titanic.
Despite the death imagery on most pages, BERTH is a work that will move you by making the passengers more personal in a unique way. We have all read the first person accounts of the survivors and elevated them up to myth-like, god-like status. However, these poems recreate their voices in a way that seems more personal, as they share their deepest thoughts, hopes and fears with you. Even the Unsinkable Molly Brown has new things to say.
At a slim 76 pages this book seems to fly by quickly, making it easy to go back and read certain poems again while enjoying the wordplay and visceral feelings the poems evoke. Without a doubt this will be one of my favorite books this year.
Natalie Scott has created a shining jewel of a book that will be a welcome addition to the shelves of any Titanic aficionado. She has honored the memory of so many with her touching and beautiful words, words and images that will stay with you long after the book is closed.
Pick up your own copy [easyazon_link identifier=”1905374275″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link]. You’ll be glad you did.