Fleets of our Hopes

paper installation paper boats by Catherine Ann Cullen
an installation of paper boats based on a poem by Catherine Ann Cullen

Every now and then a poem inspires such feelings in me that I just have to respond – and so it was with “Paper Boats” by the poet Catherine Ann Cullen. I’m not going to write much more this week but simply to show you the poem, let you read it and let you know about the exhibition “Concerning the Other” which opens in An Táin Arts Centre in Dundalk this Saturday at 2pm.

This is a group exhibition curated by Olivier Cornet, Claire Halpin and myself. We had it in Queen Street Studios (QSS) in Belfast and in the Olivier Cornet Gallery last year. This is the final iteration of the show. My piece can be seen above, it’s a collaboration with Catherine Ann. Here’s the poem below.


Paper Boats  – by Catherine Ann Cullen


I fold my poems into boats to hazard your shore,

an origami flotilla

bobbing towards the occupation.


Between the white creases some words are legible:

‘resistance’ on the sail,

‘defiance’ on the flag.


And when the gunships spot the word ‘freedom’

rushing the coast,

their shells will rupture my fleet.


The boats will sink and then rise,

or erupt skywards and then fall,

scattering rags of verse across the water.


But I’ve folded some so artfully

that their blind sides

might float past security.


Perhaps one will beach where children have played

and you will spread it

like a map in your hands


and know that someone whose rage is not brave

will fold poems into boats

to open on your sands


till on every shore are hands folding boats

and your waters are white

with fleets of our hopes.






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