The Loss of the Schooner Kestrel & Other Poems

“For those who have a feel for the sea and its many moods, a rare combination of nautical expertise and perceptive poetry, capturing a very special world.”

                                                                            —Bill Robinson

“Richard Dey has an unusual and involving kinship with the ocean. His poems of maritime life, from eddies to storms, are clean, energetic, and original. Anyone interested in the sea will gain a new perspective on it from Dey’s poems; anyone previously not interested will become so.”

                                                                            —James Dickey


Whereas almost all sea poetry concerned merchant or naval sailing ships, Richard Dey’s poems reflect contemporary pleasure craft and workboats and the sailors found in them. Not since John Masefield’s Salt Water Ballads (1902) has there been a book like this.  

Dey’s sea poetry draws on his experience as a yachtsman and commercial fisherman. The boats in his poems are many and varied, and he writes about them in both literal and figurative ways. He regards yachts not as images of conspicuous consumption but as vehicles of trial and transport, and in this he is revolutionary. He sees them in the continuum of ships, just as he sees yachtsmen in the continuum of sailors. 

Dey has published three editions of his Bequia Poems, a work of many years set in the West Indies. This is the first collection of his non-Bequia poems, a kind of northern counterpoint to his tropical work. A new “Preface” in Kestrel serves to introduce both. 

Alternately narrative and lyric, impersonal and personal, formal and free, these poems are all accessible. They reflect a concern for the language of action and contemplation, rather than the contemplation of language. And yet they are contemporary, literate, and moving. Dey’s ambition has been to splice together aspects of the sea and land, and to find in marine imagery metaphors for our common  traveling. 

In this collection you’ll find a sequence of nine poems based on a season of sailing a Beetle Cat; another of youthful love poems set against the life style of offshore lobstering; and a third from cruising the Maine coast. Other poems include an account of a swordfish attacking a fishboat; an elegy for Dodge Morgan; an evocation of a San Francisco scow schooner; humor in “Lines on a Dinghy;” a plea not to save a wooden ship but to scuttle it; an examination not of a wreck but of our fascination with wrecks; an account of the "Edmund Fitzgerald" before she sank in a storm; a tribute to Dey’s mentor, Robert Fitzgerald, translator of The Odyssey; and the title poem, which was first published as a feature in Sail magazine and then performed by The Poets Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a narrative about the predicament of a modern sailor in a traditional battle against the ageless sea.  

No other serious poet has written seriously about yachts and yachtsmen, not to mention fishboats and fishermen, in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Dey’s feel for boats gives them not only their authority but their authenticity. The Loss of the Schooner Kestrel is a unique, substantial achievement that deserves an audience of general readers no less than boating readers.


“A considerable contribution to the literature of the sea …”

           —David Fairbank White, author of True Bearing and Bitter Ocean



© Richard Dey 2013