New Albion

Considering ourselves now on the point of commencing an entirely
new region, I cannot take leave of the coast already known.
—George Vancouver

The ship rode all night by the wind, anchored in thick rainy
weather. He was looking for white land, or chalk cliffs. He
found Destruction Island and Lookout Point. The country 
had the appearance of a continued forest as far north as the
eye could reach. He saw a sail to the west, the first vessel
in eight months. He saw thousands of rocks, conical, flat-
sided, flat-topped and every other shape of the imagination.
A shallow bay, the feet of inland mountains, a point, an
island-dot lying off it. Was it Cape Flattery? That flattered
Cook’s hopes for a harbour. Or was it a sandy beach. Of
a bay Cook’s Discovery and Resolution stood into. Cook
seeking a pretended strait of Juan de Fuca, but saw nothing 
like it, nor is there the least probability that iver any such 
thing ever exhisted. On the long lost coast Drake named
New Albion. Albino. Albumen—not white to the egg—only
white to humans. Alba almost palindromic. Able was I ere
I saw Elba. Not Alba. But in imagination’s geography. A
projecting point at Cape Disappointment—immediately
within the point, the gist, the purpose, the country more
elevated—the point answering to Mr. Meare’s Cape
Shoalwater but from the adjacent country rather appearing
to be his Low Point. Our voyage irksome for want of
wind, our curiosity much excited to explore the promised
expansive mediterranean ocean. Though other explorers’
large rivers and capacious inlets are reduced to brooks
insufficient for our vessels. Except one at latitude 47° 45′,
the ancient relation of John De Fuca, the Greek pilot in
1592, where Spaniards found an entrance that in 27 days
brought them to Hudson’s Bay.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “New Albion”?

This poem is part of a larger project on Vancouver and its history. I read the journals of George Vancouver, the explorer as part of this work, and I was fascinated by some of his names and what he thought he was finding.

What poetic techniques did you use in “New Albion”?

This poem plays with the sound of words and plays with the ironies of double meaning in words.

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