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Sunday Poetry by Shane Rhodes

Sunday Poetry by Shane Rhodes

The Voyages of Martin Frobisher

By Coach House Date: January 06, 2018 Tags: Sunday Poetry

Welcome back to Sunday Poetry, where only the most epic poetry can be found. This week, we're looking at ‘The Voyagers of Martin Frobisher’ from Dead White Men by Shane Rhodes. If you like what you see, don't refrain from signing up to receive the Sunday Poetry newsletter that includes exclusive poems and discounts in your inbox on any given Sunday.


1. [They] in search for a passage to Cathaia (1576)
We had bene vtterly lost

                     We thought these places might onely be called the Isie Seas

and we could not tell where we were

                           They shall get them into the latitude of _ and _ 

We sought to find the rich countrey of Cataya

                                                                 these poore men of Bristow

where all the sands and clifts did so glister

                   faine to submit themselues to the mercy of the vnmerciful yce

yet we haue not found any

                   and therewith like to be brused in peeces and perish in the sea

We weyed ancker

                                They saw themselues certaine people of that countrey

We wrote our letters

                                                                                       Meta Incognita

We could perceiue

They found themselves without sight of Sunne

We sawe many monsterous fishes
                             They eat raw flesh and are of the colour of a ripe Oliue

and strange foules

                                      They be more then by writing can be expressed

Into a ring we cast our selues vpon our knees
                              They haue not seene the thing whereof you aske them

and gaue God humble thanks

                                        and by signes declared they wil stop their eares

We left toyes

                                                                           and vnderstand you not


                                                                    They will teach vs the names


                                                                                           of each thing

pictures of men

                                                                                      in their language and women

                                                         They beleeve we can make them liue

We all beleeued

                                                                                or die at our pleasure

yet by no meines

                                                                             They worship the deuill

can we apprehend                                                                    and they made signes vnto vs

any of them

                                                                           that they had seene gold

2. [He]: upon the death of Kalicho (1577)
I was summoned

quenching the fire

                                  before imminent


When he was among us
                                                                                                the body neglected
                                 everyoneʼs judgment


                                                was deceived.
                                                There was
                                                                 two ribs broken

you might sayulcer of the lung


Anglium diceres metum which he had

                                                            when he first arrived.


When he came back to himself

standing on the shore from the deep

                                                                                        he sang clearly
                               and summoned up

his last words

in our language

the foolish, too uncivilized man ‘God be with you.’

He died.

Quite enough!Callicho

                            I was bitterly




                            for our most gracious
                         Cally Chough

Callichoghow heCollichang

                        slipped through


                        this Inuit man


3. [Drawing them out]: Frobisher’s Captives
                [Fight between Frobisher and Eskimos
watercolor (?) in Baffinland

(capture scene)

                last seen
                                                                     Munich in 1776

Metropolitan Museum of Art

                (HB 24 415)

full-length in oils

                                                                  with bow and arrows and paddle
                      Drawing in native dress

sealskin jacket with hood and tail

                 carried aboard the 1577 voyage

now in Zurich Zentralbibliothek 1964standing to front and looking to rightFull-length                                                                                  in oils

                                                                                  Fig. 8a.

Three busts [Full-length

                                             kayak and ship in background
                 Rijksuniversiteit te Gent]
with names inscribed:

‘Arnaq and Nutaaq’(78 E 54; ff.410v.-410v.)location now unknown

                 last seen in 1688

in the British Museum (1989)

                                                                                                              with bows and arrows

1577 Captivescaption: ‘To send overseas

                                    captured in oil

and English dressfor the Queen’


In looking at the dead white men that litter Canada’s landscape, you can’t avoid Martin Frobisher. He sailed three times to Baffin Island. The first, in 1576, searching for the Northwest Passage to China (and during which 5 of his men were taken captive by the Inuit). In 1577, he sailed with even more men and collected 200 tonnes of Black Ore, “which was esteemed to be very ritch and full of gowld.” While searching for the lost seamen from the previous voyage, they fought local Inuit and kidnapped three: a man they called Calichoughe, a woman called Egnock, and her child, Nutioc. On their return to England, the captives were painted, drawn, examined and written about in publications all over Europe. All three died within a few months.

“The Voyages of Martin Frobisher” is built, in part, upon George Best’s 1584 work on Frobisher’s three voyages, contemporary descriptions of drawings made of the Inuit captives (many are still housed in European museums), and a collection of the many different spellings of Kalisuuq (both the name and character of Shakespeare’s “Caliban” may be based on Kalisuuq). I've also repurposed Edward Dodding’s 1577 autopsy report which details the sickness and death of Kalisuuq. Although the report could easily be seen as a quaint scientific document from its time, I think it important to remember that it is rooted in the death and desecration of a real Inuit man; I hope the poem brings some semblance of respect back to his death.


Dead White Men (2017)Juxtaposing the seemingly benign names of Europeans that permeate our geographies with the details of their so-called discoveries and conquests, Dead White Men turns ideas of exploration, discovery, finding and keeping back upon themselves. Engaging with exploration and scientific texts from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries – texts wrapped up in the history and ongoing present of colonization – this collection builds a fascinating poetry of memory out of histories that are largely forgotten.