Read What the Sea Has to Say

by Lin McNulty

Diary of the One Swelling Sea by Orcas poet Jill McCabe Johnson

Diary of the One Swelling Sea by Orcas poet Jill McCabe Johnson

One morning, still immersed in the hypnopompic vestiges of a dream, Orcas Islander and Kangaroo House owner Jill McCabe Johnson remembered the words “diary of the one swelling sea,” and she began to write.

Four hours later, as she emerged from the experience, she realized each poem was a journal entry. The sea, she noted, does not have a calendar and is aware only of the rotation of the earth—of darkness and light. Each poem, then, became a “day in the life….”

“Diary of the One Swelling Sea” was thereby born—the first book of her own work. It was completed and released in January 2013.

Jill writes fiction and some non-fiction, having obtained an MFA with a focus primarily on poetry, and is currently working on her PhD with her attention on poetry with an eco-poetic bent, and non-fiction.

The result of her dream world set to paper is a lush peek into the life of the briny deep, channeled from a viewpoint we rarely consider. In a rhythmic ebb and flow, we experience what it looks like, what it feels like, to view life from the bottom up.

Day Slack Water

My only rest comes in the lulls
………………….of unchanging amplitude
………….at the crest of high tide
………………………….or ebb of low;
my only reprieve from Mirror’s heave,
………………………………..the only time I feel lost.

How does she do that? Well, in addition to an obvious capacity for inventiveness, she belongs to two writing groups on Orcas—one a poetry group and the other prose. Her poetry group does not critique as much as they share what works in a particular writing piece. The prose group, she says, usually becomes an interesting discussion of craft. She also participates in a virtual writing group of far-flung friends. “I am grateful,” she says, “to be able to spend time with such astute, creative, smart writers.”

With no particular rituals, she does generally write every day, showing up for the muse to strike. Her tool of choice is her laptop, although she occasionally writes the old-fashioned way with paper and pen.

A reading of “Diary of the One Swelling Sea” will be offered at Darvills, at 6 p.m. on March 2. In conjunction with the reading, SeaDoc’s Joe Gaydos will speak on the state of Salish Sea. She has also scheduled a few readings in Seattle along with a March book signing in Boston at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference.

The book is available at Darvills. For more information visit her website.

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Read What the Sea Has to Say — 2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this review.

    I read and reread and reread “Day Slack Water”, and will continue to do so– amazed at how much Jill has packed into just six lines. What a huge gift. I would say it is breathtaking– but in fact, it is breath-giving.

    Thank you Lin for the review, and Jill for your vision–

  2. Do you feel like you need to meditate but just can’t get yourself into that space? Pick up a copy of Jill’s book and you will be there in no time. Dip in at any point and the sea will willingly take you into his (her?) world; cool, observant and completely in the moment.