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In the Poet's Spotlight for February 2008:  Robert P. Arthur

Robert P. Arthur holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas and an M.A. in English from the University of Richmond, specializing in drama. He has written and published over twenty books and plays and 1500 articles on the arts.  His recent poetry book, Vijaís War, was nominated for the Library of Virginia Book Award for Poetry.  In 2007, he published Phaedre (in book form), a post-modern play written in contemporary poetry, and The Front Porch Trilogy, a three play, poetic look at Virginia watermen.


Mr. Arthur is the recipient of the Jean H. Desmond Poetry Prize from the Poetry Society of Virginia and the Maryanne Farley Award for Fiction for his novel, Master William and the Finman. On a Virginia tour he performed his new poem/play, Threshold to America, accompanied by the Eastern Virginia Brass Quintet. To date, Threshold to America has been performed for two years and has won fourteen grants.  He remains best known for his book of poems, Hymn to the Chesapeake, the best selling book in the history of Road Publishers.   Converted into a poem/play, Hymn to the Chesapeake won Most Innovative Play from Port Folio Magazine.  The poem/play, Phaedra received five Port Folio Awards, including Best Play, and was chosen for a VIP performance for the diplomatic community of Washington, D.C.


Arthur has received awards from the Poetry Society of Virginia, the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, and the Poetry Society of Florida, as well as the Creative Writing Award of the University of Arkansas MFA program, the Baucum Fulkerson Award for Literary Excellence (fiction), the Christian in Arts award from Regent University (criticism, poetry, and drama), the Peoples Academy of the Arts Citation (arts criticism), and a Distinguished Service award from Port Folio magazine (drama).


Arthur has founded three literary journals: the Tidewater Review, BlackWater Review, and The Lady Jane Miscellany (first issue due in 2008).  Along with his daughter, he founded San Francisco Bay Press.


Arthur teaches Creative Writing at Tidewater Community College and is also a Writer in Residence in the graduate Creative Writing program at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife, Gray, and his children, Billy and Dorie.

Index of Arthur's Poems: Scroll down or click on Poem Title

Poems of Robert P. Arthur (below)  © copyright Robert P. Arthur, All rights reserved.



Parramore Island


for my friend, Tom Horton


Under a shoal of stars,

the Atlantic surf

murmurs like ghosts

on the sandy

coasts of the barrier islands


east of Wachapreague and Quinby.


Parramore Island sails the troubled

eons of nautical history like a ghostly schooner

of the mind,  appearing, disappearing


Öat the edge of the world, Tom Horton says.


Edges abound, everywhere

with life, with fecund migrations of fish and fowl.


One finds the deep-down

natural scurrying of briar and shell at the edges

of seasons,


at junctures of forest and field

where startles the owl and the white tailed deer,


in the deep periwinkled


and oystered mud where the salt march

and sea converge, in the exhalations

of the booming deep-sea drum.


What fish may swim on the edge of sleep

and wakefulness?


My son, my son,

Where have you gone in the wide world?


The Atlantic surf murmurs

of hole and bar and reef,

as Tom Horton says, in a subsonic voice heard by gulls

on the Barbary Coast


of Africa.


Edges live everywhere

in the latticework of the mind.


The gulls hear each murmur

of the moon-drenched surf

of every salt creek and curve

of Parramore Island as shadowed vibrations

in bone and skull.


Age-old migratory paths

rush from Africa to the Chesapeake Bay,


as Tom Horton says.


Itís an awful world to wander in

when you are young and have lost your bearings.


In the hush of ambient

twilight at Parramore

amber foxes detach themselves from the dunesí shadows,


finding in their earthy haunt

the secret edge of poetry.

Back to Index   


Horse Hammock Point


Once, from the wracklines

I drew the wild sea up

in a snag of drifted wood

from the moonflung chalk

of waves. I heard

that entangled ghost of butternut

salt-riven, hickory

pock and slurp in tongues

of breaking darkís

littoral surge and roll

beyond the reefs

of stalking ice

and Spanish sea

to marshlands of the Virginia

coast, combed by holes

and swept by tide


Then in the sojourn of my mood

I weathered again

the easterlies

of my childhood

the rising flood of shadowed sea

and storms of light

at Horse Hammock Point

I probed again with ear and eye

the hungering crab

in stinging beds of waving grass

and lolling eel,

the shot black ducksí

fluttering, beak-first

demise into silent



and knew then, in my bone

the plunging stars


and saw as if from Mercury

the bleached earth orb,

spinning and dumb

a little spot out there, adrift


in deepening space, like wood

that God could cover with his thumb


          Previously published in PSVís Anthology of Poems, edited by Joseph Awad, 2003.


Back to Index

Windlass Chanty

            --An excerpt from the award-winning poem/play, Hymn to the Chesapeake


Men who had seen her drank deep and were silent, say the Clancy Brothers.
Women were talking wherever she went.






Out of the spray

of the Chesapeake

comes running the schooner

Enchantress B.

fore-gaff sails set

topsails aloft

past Cape Henry Light

and dreaming, spotless

her horseshoe

holding luck


at the Samson post

Her decks fresh


cream white

she hauls

to starboard

rounds into the wind

to shoot the narrows

past Old Point Comfort

and boom for harbor

And, oh, how immaculate

her wings

her fittings, planking, spars, and shrouds

knights heads and haws


Now, windlass tight

she pays off again

to the whistles of soldiers

at the earthenworks, otherwise

dumb, in wonder

Then all the crew leaps

from rigging and mast

The way is checked

by head sails, thrown suddenly back

and from the chain lockers

the cable shudders out

for its first thirsty drop since

the China Sea

Even the gulls are standing by

pumps are shining

by the galley stack

yards are braced, parallel

the tasseled crew leaps into the rigging

to furl

the luffed skysails

a warp is hurled

and all hands together on the capstan bars

crank her to port with a chantey of a deep

sea voyage
















Back to Index


The Wind, 1955

          --an excerpt from Hymn to the Chesapeake



the wind may be found where sailormen

are gathering

it teases the shrouds

chills the upright, licked finger

scuddles the clouds

sends smoke from chimneys

twisting into messages

            drives the sail

            and then feather-light like a breath

            tickles hair on the backs of necks

            makes telltales flutter

            tugs the cunninghamís ring

            and rushing, like water

            eddies, billowing

Then curls from the weather shore

                        blowing flags



all morning and beyond


Once the wind spat a diamond into the palm

of my hand

and I let it go

in dread of shadows

endlessly repeating


The wind

This ether

of my imagining

through which the  

firelight travels


The wind

ghostly, moving

through the soul

of the universe

as if there is no other


or sea

or rope

or ceaseless star


The wind

white shadow of sailor men

traveling beyond reach of

halyard and spar


Sometimes at the turning on of a lamp

one can catch the flap of a wind


Catch it for the briefest moment

as if to say

This is what I know. This is where Iím going.



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