The Sea Sounds Peace: Ocean Suite by Clifford Bernier

Review by Gregory Luce

Clifford Bernier is not only a fine poet, but also an accomplished musician who plays blues harmonica and has performed with jazz combos. So it is no surprise that his latest collections is entitled Ocean Suite, nor that it should manifest great musicality throughout.

The sea sounds peace

beyond my time.

As time moves the sound

of peace.

(from Sea Sound)


The driftwood on the bank.

Sea grass like mustard

on the dunes, and the

relentless mist. They know.

(from Pacific Coast)

These delicate rhythms, this melodic language, these clear images that appeal to both the eye and ear: If these things were the only virtues of these poems, it would be well worth reading and savoring. However, these elements are merely the beautiful surface of a profound meditation on encounters with the natural world, what emotions they evoke and what they might mean. Words like “meaning” and “know” are woven into the poems continuously, not as abstractions but as the motivators of the poet’s quest.

Again and again, the speaker goes to the ocean, to the woods, to streams and rivers, to the marshes, again and again discovering that the seeking itself is the meaning, not something imparted by the natural phenomena independently.

The anaphora here and in such other poems as “Beauty” provides another element of musicality and well as an intensive assertion of the theme of search and discovery:

Beauty like the calls of colluding cormorants.

Beauty like the stepping, stumbling surf.

(from Beauty)

Listen carefully to the alliteration and assonance in these lines (and elsewhere): The ocean, the wind, the multiplicity of the sounds of nature are echoed over and over.

These poems are quiet and frequently understated, their music soft but insistent. Ocean Suite will repay careful and repeated readings.

Gregory Luce is the author of five collections of poems and a Senior Writer for the online arts journal Scene4.

Available at:



Comments are closed.