Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 06 October 2014

  • Coral Island

    To our surprise the island was well watered.
    The fishes were strangely easy to catch
    And the little pigs that gambolled around
    In the interior provided nourishment,
    As well as fun for my fellow castaways.

    The weather was persistently benign,
    Stroking our hair and murmuring white noise.
    Though my spyglass had suffered from the sea
    I could still use it for scanning the waves,
    Hoping for a sail or even a monster.

    Meantime I memorised our days in paradise
    And the little that happened, looking forward
    To the book I should write when we were rescued –
    A more or less truthful tally of events,
    Spiced up or embroidered as need might be.

    At night the land crabs rattled round the palms
    And the waves were bored by the same old beach.
    Peterkin snored guilelessly in our hut
    While Jack dreamed in silence about his pig-sticking
    And I stared out to sea with an empty mind.

    That was before the coming of the cannibals
    And our unforeseen arrival at manhood,
    When things that should not be seen were seen
    And could not be unseen, and our green Eden
    Receded into a book for small boys.

    by Fergus Allen

    Together with the Institute of English Studies in London, the Poetry Centre is organizing a conference from 13-14 March 2015 at the IES to address the three initiatives: New Generation Poets (1994), Next Generation Poets (2004), and Next Generation Poets 2014. It aims to examine important concerns of contemporary poetry arising from these projects, such as the relationship between poetry and the public, the promotion of poetry through initiatives such as these, and what the selection of the particular poets on these lists can tell us about the state and direction of British poetry at various stages over the past twenty years. For more information and the call for papers, please visit the IES website.


    ‘Coral Island’ is copyright © Fergus Allen, 2013, and is reprinted from New & Selected Poems, introduced by Christopher Reid (CBeditions, 2013).

    Fergus Allen was born in 1921; his father was Irish, his mother English. After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, he moved to England during the Second World War. He was Director of the Hydraulics Research Station and ended his professional career as First Civil Service Commissioner. In 2000 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He published his first book (with Faber) at the age of seventy-two; the poem here is one of several recent poems that comprise the first section of his New& Selected Poems, which also includes work from five previous collections. You can read more poems from the book on the CBe website, read more about Allen’s work from the CBe blog, and hear him read at the Poetry Archive.

    CB editions, founded in 2007, publishes poetry alongside short fiction and other writing, including work in translation. Its poetry titles have won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize three times (in 2009, 2011 and 2013), and have been shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Forward First Collection Prize.

    In 2011 CBe inaugurated Free Verse , a one-day book fair for poetry publishers to show their work and sell direct to the public; the event was repeated in 2012, 2013, and this year too, with over 60 publishers taking part.

    Find out more about the publisher from the website, where you can also sign up to the CB editions mailing list, or 'like' the publisher on Facebook to keep up-to-date with its activities.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.