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The Lobsterman’s Dream by Larry D. Thomas



Larry D. Thomas: The Lobsterman’s Dream (Poems of the Coast of Maine)

Thomas, Larry D.  The Lobsterman’s Dream (Poems of the Coast of Maine).  El Grito del Lobo Press, 2014.  (no ISBN assigned)  $20.00


The Lobsterman's Dream (Poems of the Coast of Maine)



Rare is the Yankee poet who can look past the cluttered, commercial highways and shore-hugging affluence of the Maine coast to see real people grappling with elemental nature now as they have for generations.  For someone hailing from the distant plains of Texas to write like this is practically unthinkable.  Yet that is precisely what Larry Thomas pulls off in his new collection of poetry, The Lobsterman’s Dream.  In spare verse, sometimes as cold and hard as the North Atlantic itself, the author exposes us to a sea painted by Winslow Homer and still embraced by those grizzled enough to work it.  This isn’t genteel or sentimental by-the-sea poetry.  We are cast onto rough waters from the very beginning.  In the opening poem, “For Its Violence,” Thomas writes: 


the air cracks

as lobstermen

sledgehammer ice


from the bows

of their boats:

where, as dawn

breaks, the dories

dully gleam, tide-


strewn helter-skelter,

flung to the rocks

like globs

of dirty



 Thomas wants you to feel it.  When the frigid sea breaks over the gunwales and into a fisherman’s weather-beaten face, he wants you to shiver.  When the “black-green” swells crash against the tortured rocks, casting landward the flotsam and jetsam of broken ships and other wrecked dreams, he wants you to feel the struggle and loss.  In the poem “Scrimshaw” we find that


She hasn’t spoken

since the day she learned,


fifty years ago,

she’d lost her only son

to the briny darkness


of Davy Jones locker,

her grief frozen

on the verge of breaking


Yet the sea isn’t all gales and ice.  It has its calmer moments as well.  And in those moments Thomas treats us to lighthouse keepers reading their way through the doldrums, painters at work in their studios, and children touching starfish for the very first time.  Foghorns groan at midnight here as they do in every collection of coastal verse.  Painted buoys hang along an old wall of a fisherman’s shack, as one might expect.  The wings of a bronze gull become a perch for “the living of its kind” and the reader nods and smiles.  The coast has its quiet charm, certainly.  All the same, it is the mercilessness of an implacable sea and those who make their living from it that inspire the best verse here:


the tale

of his great-uncle

found half-frozen yet alive


in an inlet, still upright

in the dory he’d oared

for two days from his sinking


vessel toward the shore,

his blue hands stuck to

and clutching the black


cedar oars, numbed beneath

an inch of briny blue ice.


As one who writes about the wildness that flourishes in the mountains and forests of northern New England, I am surprised to find a similar wildness Down East where urbanites go to play during the summer, where life is supposed to be easy.  How even more surprising that the author of Stark Beauty and other collections of lean, southwestern verse is the one who opens my eyes to this wildness.  But the publisher Clarence Wolfshohl, who handset the type of The Lobsterman’s Dream and illustrated it with woodcuts, knows incisive writing when he sees it.  This slender collection, with the understated subtitle Poems of the Coast of Maine, is that and much more.  It belongs on the shelves with the best verse written about the sea here in New England or elsewhere.



Reviewed by Walt McLaughlin



As a nature writer of sorts, my poetry and prose have appeared in Blueline, Cream City Review, The Conservationist, Vermont Life, Writing Nature, and a host of other periodicals.  Last year North Country Books published my Adirondack hiking narrative The Allure of Deep Woods.  I have several other books in print as well, including my collection of poetry, A Hungry Happiness.  I also operate a small press called Wood Thrush Books.




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