I, By The Tide Of Humber


2017011520170121 (R4)

Poet Sean O'Brien reflects on the waterscape and landscape of Hull, 2017 City of Culture.

BBC coverage of Hull City of Culture will be extensive across 2017. At its very start, the award-winning poet Sean O'Brien reflects upon why his native city, its waterscape and landscape, have inspired poets past and present.

The programme features a specially commissioned new poem from Sean - a three-part memory-piece, which is also a love-song for Hull, its surroundings and their metaphorical resonance:

The great void

Where the land loses track of itself,

And the water comes sidling past at the roadside

Awaiting the signal to flood, is a kind of belief

Where there is no belief, is the great consolation

Of knowing that nothing will follow but weather and tides,

Yet also that when the world ends

There must be a Humber pilot keeping watch

As the great ships are passing silently away

Through the estuary's mouth and the saw-toothed marriage

Of river and sea, and out past the fort at Bull Island

And over the edge, and away - Sean also celebrates the work of poets who have made the city their home: Andrew Marvell, a line from whose 17th Century poem, To His Coy Mistress, gives this programme its title; Philip Larkin, Stevie Smith and others. He brings in an eclectic range of music, including his personal favourite, Dirty Water, by local band The Fabulous Ducks.

He hears from the Hull-based geographer Chris Skinner, and poet Sarah Stutt.

Starting with memories of digging holes in the garden of the house where he grew up, via flood-cellars, culverts and drains, the smaller river Hull and the great estuarine river Humber itself, this highly-textured programme culminates with Sean at the top of the disused lighthouse at Spurn Point, gazing out into the North Sea.

Producer Beaty Rubens.

....The great void

And over the edge, and away....

Producer Beaty Rubens.