Michael Bloor, a professor at Cardiff University's Seafarers International Research Centre, has spent twelve years uncovering the harsh and unjust working conditions faced by an often overlooked group: the roughly one million mariners around the world. But, until now, he's had trouble getting anyone to pay attention to his findings.
Bloor has tried to push for change through the standard academic articles for years without much success. This time, in an effort to get some attention, he decided to try writing a poem. "Initially it was a little intellectual exercise," he told the BBC, "but as it progressed, I became more determined to make it a public document so people could understand the difficult conditions that seafarers labour under."
Bloor titled his poem "The Rime of the Globalised Mariner," and fashioned it after Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous ballad, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Coleridge's poem tells the story of a mariner who shoots an albatross (a bird which, contrary to conventional wisdom, mariners considered good luck), thus cursing his shipmates to death, and cursing himself to forever tell the story.
Bloor's poem cleverly echoes Coleridge's, using the same structure and ballad meter, and he directly contemporizes, where he can, Coleridge's lines. The "global mariner" who replaces Coleridge's ancient mariner is, like one quarter of the world's sailors, Filipino. He describes, at length, the harsh conditions that he and his colleagues face:
'I had no wish to work on ships -
Filipinos know it's hard -
Mouths were many, jobs were scarce,
From birth my life was marr'd.
While Coleridge's mariner brought misfortune on himself, Bloor's mariners are cursed by the cruel realities of today's shipping industry, including poor training, poor safety standards and long hours. In response to an inspector character's explanations, Bloor's mariner exclaims:
'I thank you,' cried the mariner,
'Now I know the bitter worst:
No remedy in law books -
My mates and I are cursed .'
The poem ends with a call for consumers to push for change.
So come all you kind consumers,
Who the honey'd wine have sipped,
Take pity on the mariner
Beware how your goods are shipped.
Bloor's poem has already succeeded in attracting more attention than his articles ever did. Here's to hoping his poem has some impact. You can read the entire text of "The Rime of the Globalized Mariner" here.