Shark Awareness Day falls on July 14th annually.
Sharks are one of the oldest species on the planet, with fossil records showing they were cruising our oceans at least 420 million years ago. Modern-day sharks have been around for about 100 million years. By contrast, human beings only evolved about 200,000 years ago.
There are over 500 species of shark, ranging from the tiny dwarf lantern shark, able to fit into the palm of your hand, to the gigantic whale shark (strictly a filter feeder), which can clock in at up to 10 meters (over 32 feet). However, this is nothing compared to the megalodon, a now extinct relation of the modern-day great white, which may have reached sizes of a whopping 20 meters (66 feet)!
Denise Levertov (1923-1997) British-born American poet, known for her anti-Vietnam war poems in the 1960s and 1970s, which also included themes of destruction by greed, racism, and sexism. Her later poetry reflects her conversion to Catholicism. No matter the subject, she was always an acute observer, and wrote with a rare combination of economy and grace. Levertov was the author of 24 books of poetry, as well as non-fiction, and she served as poetry editor of The Nation and Mother Jones. She was honored with the Robert Frost Medal in 1990, and the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1993. In 1997, Levertov died from complications of lymphoma at age 74.
Richard James O’Connell (1928 – ) American poet, English literature professor, and translator; served in the U.S. Navy (1948-1952); director of the Walt Whitman Poetry Center (1975-1984)
To read “The Sharks” by Denise Levertov, and “Shoal of Sharks” by Richard O’Connell, click:
by Denise Levertov
Well then, the last day the sharks appeared.
Dark fins appear, innocent
as if in fair warning. The sea becomes
sinister, are they everywhere?
I tell you, they break six feet of water.
Isn’t it the same sea, and won’t we
play in it any more?
I like it clear and not
too calm, enough waves
to fly in on. For the first time
I dared to swim out of my depth.
It was sundown when they came, the time
when a sheen of copper stills the sea,
not dark enough for moonlight, clear enough
to see them easily. Dark
the sharp lift of the fins.
“The Sharks” from Collected Earlier Poems 1940-1960, © 1979 by Denise Levertov – New Directions Publishing
Shoal of Sharks
by Richard O’Connell
“Oh, look at all the porpoise!” someone shouted
While passengers ran to snap their cameras;
But what they leaned toward was a shoal of sharks
Before us, moving like a floating island:
A seething multitude of tails and fins
Fleeing the fury of a hurricane
Hundreds of miles away. They splashed and swarmed.
Slashing the sea to threads of hissing foam
Beneath us, tossing bellies to the sun.
Staring into the blood pits of our eyes
Ferocious for the flesh and stench of us.
Lucky for us high on our high-tech ark
Looking back on life’s primeval broth
At such perpetual and perfect kin.
“Shoal of Sharks” first appeared in The National Review – © 2001 by Richard O’Connell