The British Explorer Henrey Hudson undertook four voyages in a futile attempt to find
a navigable passage from Europe to spice-rich Asia. His fourth voyage, begun in 1610,
ended in mutiny after his crew had weathered unspeakably cruel conditions during the
winter of 1610-11 in what is now Hudson Bay, in the Canadian Arctic. Hudson, along with
his son and several sick crew members were set adrift in the ship's shallop, or longboat,
and left to their fates, while the mutineers sailed back to England. Along the way, the chief
of the mutineers, Henry Green, died of starvation. The rest were tried for mutiny, but were
found innocent. Historians presume that Hudson, his son, and his remaining crew perished,
but no one knows for certain. Into that gap I have leaped with this tale.
All of the names of the mutineers and the crew members are historically verifiable. Only
the name of Auliqaq is an invention.
Selections from A Dream of the Northwest Passage
John Hudson Recalls the Horrors
of the Winter Before the Mutiny
When it became clear
that nowhere on this coast
of ice atolls and dragon cliffs
was there a passage
to the warm water straits,
we voted to sail for England.
Father overrode us,
a fire in his eyes
as if God had pointed
the way to the savoury island.
He preached until we believed
winter meant only a roaring fire,
tankards handed to us,
beef steaming on platters.
If not for Bylot and Moore
felling ptarmigans with muskets,
we'd have starved.
The Discovery was gripped
by a fist of ice so tight
her timbers shrieked
like slaughtered shoats,
all of us fearing
she'd shatter like an egg
splattered by Satan.
When our store of fowl ran out,
we gnawled cheese mouldy
as cargo-crushed rats,
bread hard as cannonballs.
Only our tales of tavern
feastings kept us warm,
and the strumpets we'd swive
once we docked in London,
my loins still unbaptized.
"In A Dream of the Northwest Passage, Bob Cooperman does what only he is capable
of doing- creating an exciting narrative adventure out of a series of linked free-verse poems
with all the music and yearning of lines in a Shakespearian play. Cooperman is a master of the verse
novel, perhaps our only contemporary master of this form."
"To those who diss contemporary narrative poetry: Abandon your prejudice, all ye who enter A Dream of
the Northwest Passage.." The 56 poems hang from a well known story: the ill-fated last
voyage of explorer Henry Hudson and his son, John. In Cooperman's telling, John is rescued by
Auliqaq- an Inuit exiled for the murder of his wife and her lover- and a native community that
takes him in. But the flesh of the story is the richly imagined voices of John, Auliqaq, and Henry.
The marooned crew, "grumbling buggers" all, "whinging" in their misery as they fight for survival aboard
a "shallop"; Auliqaq makes the "spilled Berry Moon" and the "Egg Moon" seem as immediate
as the white "ice giants," with "their dreadfull teeth." Cooperman's characters become
powerfully believable. His characters' voices move sturdily in three-to-five stress lines,
sturdy yet fluid, tough yet dignified, and its imagery bespeaks a powerful poetic imagination
capable of lighting up a dimmed past. This vibrant tale of desperation and degeneration,
revenge and redemption, will thrill history lovers, story-lovers, poetry-lovers."
Faculty Adviser, Grub Street ,
Editor/Director, Brickhouse Books, Inc.