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Shell Names Read Like Poetry on a Salty Tongue

Updated on November 1, 2011
Poet on the beach in Argentina, looking for shells
Poet on the beach in Argentina, looking for shells

There is a story behind the creation of this poem, which is one of the poems in a series of poems that I am working on about shells. The story is a story about finding inspiration in unlikely places but only finding it when you work to find it. That’s what happened when I discovered a passionate interest in the many different types of shells that exist in the world but only when I worked hard to find inspiration somewhere, anywhere.

What happened here was that I spent a long time feeling very uninspired. The usual things that captured my interest no longer interested me. I was attending art openings and smart lectures and new plays but nothing was making me fascinated. Nothing made my heart skip a beat

I was frustrated. And I decided to do something about it. I put out a call on Twitter for people to send me a random three-digit number. Ten people sent in 3 digit numbers. I took those numbers with me to the library, committed to getting one book in each Dewey decimal number that was on the list.

The random assortment of books was all books that I would never have picked up on my own. There was a book about the history of gardens in California. There was a book about the Buffalo Soldiers. And there was this simple small Smithsonian guide to shells. I wasn’t excited about it.

But then I opened that book on shells. And what I found was inspiration. I found a collection of super beautiful shells in all different shapes and sizes. And I found that there is an entire language of shells, a language that is so poetic that I was drawn to read the book aloud. I was drawn to writing poetry about those shells. Even just the names of the different shells sounded like poetry … and that’s where this particular poem comes from.

This poem is a poem that looks at the many beautiful different names of shells. It honors those poetic shell names with a poem just for them. It reflects how the beauty of the shells brought back all of my senses and made me feel inspired about life again. I hope that you enjoy it.

Shell Names Read Like Poetry on a Salty Tongue

Conches, cowries, crassatellas

Cones, cockles and heart clams

A cacophony often in harmony

This poetry of the sea

Trophons, tritons, turrids

Tree oysters and trapezium clams

A mingling of hues creating a perfect colorway

This poetry of the sea

Distorsios, drupes, dove shells

Nutmegs, nutshells and nautilus

An array of exotic spices making up the perfect dish

This poetry of the sea

Murexes, whelks, miters, volutes

Spindles, ancillas, vases, chanks

Drops of scent that blend into the perfect fragrance

This poetry of the sea

Spirula, argonauts, geoducks

Tellins, scallops, paddocks

A thousand sensations melded into one perfect kinesthetic moment

This poetry of the sea

Moon shells, fig shells, olive shells

Wing oysters, jewel boxes, lantern clams

Every discovery on an imagined beach becomes a spark of creative fire

In this poetry of the sea


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  • profile image


    7 years ago


  • Paradise7 profile image


    7 years ago from Upstate New York

    Great. Tree oysters. I'll have to use that somehow, someday, when I find out what they are and what they look like.


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