Survey by Qualaroo

Sweet Sea Mask

A poem and a crossword puzzle: read the first blog post from our Vertigo Sea writer in residence, Cleo Lake.

Sweet Sea Mask

It was not of the Sea but in it was seen
The great IT that spoke with movement not mouth

Being and knowing
Tide ebbing and flowing
Settled pastures
Established rhythms
Chartered and dismantled by a stiff necked view
Where black to equal green
Got translated via blue

Darkie Darby Brass
Frome con do it across
When current did a turn
On insurance claimed their loss
That this and the other did us over again
Anarchic action, fact ion
Bridge the myth through this pen

Two a Penny. Well on Road 
Re sooty puppet type volution
Manufactured and foretold
Man a wretched earth existence
Legions spiral mind control

A sweet sea mask
Of diabetic flu
Kitty kat got she trapped
With a saltiness who’d do
Her so wrong as not a person but a thing
Bought brought and carried forth with a ding a ling a sin

No questions will get asked
When shipping contain her arrive
Street hustlers fish for livings
White brown green their sinking prize
Precedented ‘bless’ed’ heights
Material motivation for the rize
Preached to them as god gold leanness
The major common lies 

If he’s a teef, elite, akin
Stamp his face pon di pound
Were port police docked deh ya,
Day a Danny dead deh drowned?

The firemen them
Used to come around
To rescue little pussy
Mee-ow-phat-a-rock a sound
So much sympathy for them
Creatures don’t have no choice
Not like the woe man beans
Groan in dingys look for voice

Collective consciousness might be more than
A million whale sized brain waves
And righteousness
All the big fish out of water.


Cleo's Crossed Words


Line Your Ear

2) Dappy man who made sailors safe (8)
6)  Rhys’s wide water (8)
7)  ‘Colourless’ supremacy (5)
9)  Black Israelites on Accra coast (2)
10)  Slave commodity produces diabetes (5)

Vertical Don

1) Bristol River made Brass (5)
3)  70’s Bristol black dyeing art centre (8)
4)  Pre drum and bass raves at Calais hell hole (6)
5)  Spirit Queen of the Black Atlantic (4,4)
8) Deep heavy sound line smells fishy (4) 

How I wrote Sweet Sea Mask

Greetings and welcome to my first blog post as writer in residence for the duration of Vertigo Sea. Time has flown by and it has nearly been a month since the exhibition opened. For my first blog post I have produced a poem and a crossword. These meld together ideas about the histories and legacies connected to Bristol and transatlantic slavery, sympathy for animals contrasted with the lack of sympathy for human beings, as well as my ongoing ‘obsession’ with the areas of Bristol I grew up in including Easton, St Pauls and St Judes which are connected by the River Frome (locally known as the Danny River).

My starting point was to scribble down ideas and thoughts whilst watching Vertigo Sea. Then later, I made a rough collage using flyers from a music showcase Carnival fundraiser event that took place last year. Led by a music collective based at the Kuumba arts centre, ‘The Decoy Live’ was performed in bandanas with a strap-line ‘masked up till the task up’. From this collage ideas start to flow. 

The crossword is hopefully a bit of fun. I would like to get your feedback on this first blog and I am offering a £10 Arnolfini bookshop voucher for one lucky person who emails me feedback and the correct solution to the crossword. Email your answers and feedback to by March 1st. Hard copies of the crossword will also be available at the Arnolfini for those who like to pen them. Answers and the winner will be announced on next month’s blog.

Thank you for reading and engaging with my work and good luck if you enter the competition.




Cleo Lake will take part in our upcoming panel discussion The Sea Inside  (27 February at 2pm) exploring the symbolism of the sea and its relationship to migration as part of the Vertigo Sea programme of events. 


Cleo also recently performed at 'In the Absence of Ruins (There will be Innovation) a unique performance event exploring 'absent archives, unseen material and distant voices' through spoken word, poetry, dance and song.



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Friday 25 October 2019 to Saturday 26 October 2019, 19:30 to 21:30

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