SHOREHAM is very much a town defined by water; it is well-known for its beach and the River Adur.
Therefore, unsurprisingly, the sea and theme of water features frequently in the work of a well-known Shoreham poet.
Martin Ward’s work describes the sea as playful, as a friend and as infinite.
Last Wednesday, at Shoreham Methodist Church, as part of WordFest, people gathered to hear and celebrate the late Martin Ward’s poetry, which is peppered with references to Shoreham.
Hugh Hellicar kicked off the event and said: “This afternoon is about savouring words and phrases. We will look at one good poet, in one good place, Shoreham, and will see that blend coming alive.”
Then Martin’s brother Christopher Ward gave a brief overview of his life.
He said: “You can never predict what poetry is inside someone. You won’t know all about a poet from their poetry.
“Martin was born in 1942 (and died in 2010) and has two brothers and was on the way to academic success gaining a scholarship to Cambridge but dropped out before finishing due to illness. He did eventually get a degree and met his wife Helen and had two boys and moved to Shoreham in 1977.
“His community role in Shoreham was important to him. He had a loving heart, a wild humour, hopelessly obscure at times, a restless energy and a determination to make sense out of life.
“He didn’t really fit in well generally in life and I think this is characteristic of poets, and that if they did fit in neatly they perhaps wouldn’t produce great poetry. Some of his poems are about finding a home.”
We were treated to 19 of Martin’s poems, the most powerful being Sea Lady 1 and Walking at Night.
Martin’s poetry is pensive, dealing with the themes of light and darkness, half-light or twilight in which unusual happenings can occur but he also focuses on the mundane and the process of writing.
His collection is diverse in both subject, rhythm and structure.
He also seemed to be master of sonnets, a notoriously difficult poetic form to use with success.
Hugh then focused on the sea as a topic of poetry, he said: “In the 18th century the sea was an unknown, in the 19th century Byron wrote about the sea and a sense of journey. Then Tennyson linked the sea and thoughts. Herman Melville had a deep dread of the ocean, but Martin’s poetry is about the sea as a friend.”
The Sea Lady 1 begins ‘To Shoreham then I came’ and in it he ponders why he came to Shoreham and whether it was by accident or fate.
By the end of the event, one comment from Hugh perhaps summed up Martin’s life as a poet best, he said: “He had what I call an inner nub of genius.”