Taking Her Back, by Cristina Baptista

A ship is a paradox, both home and grave, wood and water, forward-venturing and anchor to the past: like magic and miracle, it transforms all who sail aboard her in ways unspeakable.

In 2014, Cristina J. Baptista was one of 85 people selected to sail aboard the world’s last remaining wooden whaleship, the 1841 vessel Charles W. Morgan. The result of this 38th Voyage of the Morgan is Taking Her Back, a poetry collection that gives voice to the immigrant experience, particularly those of the Portuguese figures once called by anthropologists the “invisible minority.” Combining historical records, news reports, literary allusions, myths, and personal experience, Taking Her Back reclaims the lost voices of the thousands of whalemen—often illiterate, mostly diminished—who kept so much of the world afloat.

Ultimately, these poems illuminate, as sun reflecting upon the sea, the depths of a human history and the roots of a forgotten American past. Like lines of rigging linking parts of a ship, the poems in Taking Her Back connect the past, present, and possible future through a lens of antiquity and personal nostalgia—and a haunting space between them.

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