Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 2011 Poetry Challenge

Do you sometimes feel an absolute compulsion to do something? Do you feel your life will be incomplete unless you do some particular thing or go some particular place? Do you absolutely have to sky dive; ski in Aspen, Colorado; take a gondola ride in Venice; make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Mecca or the Ganges; or walk on the Great Wall of China before you die? Do you just have to see the US Capitol building or go to the top of the Washington Monument?

Or do you feel compelled to do something you used to do—roll down a hill in spring grass, sit with the one you love on the shore of a lake as the sun sets, rock a new-born, or walk across a field on what used to be your grandfather’s farm?

In what is probably his best known poem, John Masefield described a compulsion:

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

~ John Masefield

This poem is in the public domain.

On her website, http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, Jayne Jaudon Ferrer recently provided a brief biography of John Masefield:

John Masefield (1878-1967) was an English poet, author, and playwright. Both his parents died while he was a child, and at the age of thirteen, annoyed with John's "addiction" to reading, the aunt in charge of caring for him sent him off to train for a life as a sailor. Although his experiences at sea provided much material for the stories and poems he would later write, John soon tired of that harsh life and, on a voyage to New York, he jumped ship. For two years, he worked at odd jobs in that city, using his free time for reading and writing. He eventually returned to England, married, had two children, and established himself as a significant literary talent. As his stature as a writer continued to grow, John became an internationally successful lecturer and was appointed as England's poet laureate, a position he held for nearly forty years. He actively wrote and published until he was 88 years old.

Perhaps in his later years, though happy to have escaped the life of a sailor, Masefield may sometimes have felt a yearning to return to the ocean. After years on land, he may have idealized his memories. Or perhaps, looking back, he was happy to be where he was, but understood how some of the men he had worked with loved the life of a sailor and would feel a deep psychological need to return to the sea if they had left it. Poetic license would allow him to express those feelings in first-person, even if they were not actually his own feelings.

March Poetry Challenge:

The challenge for March is to write a poem about a deep and sincere longing, something which is compelling you, something you feel you MUST do or someplace you MUST go. Or you can express the compulsion of someone else as if it were your own.

Your poem may be rhymed and metered, as is “Sea Fever.” Or, if you prefer, it may be well-crafted free verse. Put the compulsion into poetry and submit it by March 15.

Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If your poem has been published in a periodical, please include publication data.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send your poem to wildamorris [at] ameritech [dot] net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot], and don’t leave any spaces). Or you can access my Facebook page and send the poem in a message. Be sure provide your e-mail address. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog, if it is a winner. The deadline is March 15. Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

To read more of Masefield's poetry or learn about his life: