Toby Campion | Photo: Paul Blakemore

The Thames as Mother, extract by Toby Campion

Everybody knows you don’t mess with her.

Her spine survives war,

brick red sweat enough to flood three boroughs,

a raised eyebrow could drag you for miles.

You just don’t mess with that.


How proud she is of her children

in their suits and land legs and screw faces.

So serious,

she smiles, so grown.


How she has been crying.

How she cannot sleep.

How often she wishes she could flow backwards,

unfall from the sky and evaporate

into her mother’s womb.


Toby Campion was a Boat Poet resident with Cory Riverside Energy who use waste to produce safe sustainable energy for London.

Boat Poets
Rachel Nwokoro

Green Tea in the Wheelhouse, extract by Rachel Nwokoro

Rachel Nwokoro

Gliding on the Thames feels like



Welcoming bubbles

And gulls

Silent gulls searching for mini industrial beaches

Greyed sand melts

Around a bald man searching for treasure

Unquestioned waiting

We pass by.


Rachel's Boat Poet residency was aboard Livett's Launches, a family business that has operated on the Thames in London since 1710.

Jeremiah Brown | Photo: Paul Blakemore

Devour by Jeremiah 'SugarJ' Brown

The surface is camouflage green,

a flat fronted boat rustles through

water like it were undergrowth.




stands more as warning than name.

I watch boat front turn to teeth

as it eats its way through water,

never full, never filling up.


The lady next to me has braided hair

she is eating Wasabi, rice and chicken curry.


I want some


She gets up as soon as I think this, selfish.

Relocating to the other side for a window seat,

I watch her become DEVOUR, only different.


She eats and is filled up.

Puts lid on box and is full.

Unlike her DEVOUR is white.


Jeremiah was resident Boat Poet with Thames Clippers who run the fastest and most frequent fleet on the river.

Boat Poets
Erin Bolens

The Riverbank by Erin Bolens

Erin Bolens

More purpose than a lake.

Less ambition than the sea.

More romance than a road.

Well no one has Friday drinks by the M1 do they?

No one has a favourite set of traffic lights

or goes for picnics on a dual carriageway.

I never stop and pause just to listen to cars

or wave to people on bridges when I’m driving.

I certainly wouldn’t pay for a roundtrip in a taxi.

What is it about watching water?

What do we withdraw from riverbanks

that has us always coming back?


Erin joined Bennett’s Barges for her Boat Poets residency, who have one of the largest fleets of barges on the Thames.

Caleb Femi | Photo: Ed Stone

Self Portrait as River by Caleb Femi

You look inside yourself

and see a trick mirror

rippling a version of your face and a hydro-panic settles into you.


The first mirror was a river.

The first face met a question

that split it in two.


Who is on the right side?

The you that you know, who sits

counting all the wet days of summer?


Or the you that you do not know,

who exists on neither side of maritime law;

the searcher, the possible,

the transparent eye?


Caleb is a spoken word poet and last year's Young People's Laureate with Spread the Word. Caleb worked with some of the Rivers of the World pupils last year and wrote this poem in response to the project.