Close your eyes and picture a pirate sitting on a beach. Let your brain relax and let the pirate be himself and watch what he does. Does he take a swig of rum? Start singing sea shanties to himself? Shout peculiar-yet-salty insults at whoever happens to walk by? Read from a book of poetry?
Odds are that final option isn’t one that sprung into your mind – pirates, as a rule, aren’t really considered to be history’s great poets, nor were they exactly patrons of the written arts. In fact, letters – save those of “marque” or “x” – were generally pretty useless to them. But this is probably because it wasn’t until 2008 that someone got around to collecting an anthology of pirate poetry. Had such a thing existed in the 1700’s, I’m sure many pirates would have taken their literary studies far more seriously.
Raising Black Flags: Original Poetry By and About Pirates is a collection available through Lulu Press. Edited by Stephen Sanders (a.k.a. Blackbead), it features 39 original pirate poems contributed by 16 pirate poets. Most of these names will seem unfamiliar until you read their biographies, at which point anyone familiar with the online and real world pirate communities – especially the Pyracy Pub – will recognize may familiar nom de plumes.
I freely confess that I don’t often read from books of poetry, as I’ve the attention span of a jelly fish. But I’d also suggest that if you are to read poetry, pirate poetry would seem the way to go. And Raising Black Flags clearly has much to offer. Poems range from the long to the short, the silly to the somber. Some speak of real world situations we modern pirates face, such as “A Pirate’s Life For Me: Being a Pirate at Renaissance Faire” by Melody Sanders. Others tell of historical pirate realities, such as the wonderful “The Captain’s Coat”, which really ought to be put to music someday. And many others blend the real world of pirates with the worlds of ghosts and mythology – poems of mermaids, sirens, and specters.
Raising Black Flags would seem a fine gift for the pirate who has everything, or make for an excellent waiting room or coffee table book. Reading a poem here and there would seem an excellent way to add a little extra dose of piracy to our modern lives – and that’s always a good thing.