Monday, April 1, 2013

April 2013 Poetry Challenge - Crows

"If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows." This was the view of Henry Ward Beecher, a prominent speaker, social reformer and preacher of the last half of the 1800s. Recent scientific study has verified Beecher’s underlying point—that crows are quite intelligent.

Crows also tend to be noisy, which has won them the disapproval of many people.

Around 1999, West Nile Virus decimated the population of crows in the United States. I’m happy that the crows, as a species, have recovered and are back in our yards and fields, ready to provide a poetry prompt. Here are two examples of crow poems:

Crow Ink

Crows know.
They take their black,
raucous selves,
fire up that attitude
and never look back
at their abandoned nest
high in the pines.

I wonder, sometimes,
if our lives might be no more
than the art of crows
written, for a while
on the sky
then, in an instant,
erased by the wind…

~ Sharon Auberle, Crow Ink (Little Eagle Press, 2009), page 11 (© 2009 Sharon Auberle).

In this poem, the crow is not an omen of good or ill. Rather the poet wonders about the aptness of the crow’s life as a metaphor for our human lives. She seems to be asking if we humans are worth more or make more of a dent on the world than the crow whose “art” is “written” on the sky, but soon erased

You can learn about Sharon Auberle at her website, For information on how to purchase a copy of Crow Ink, see

At the beginning of the following poem, the poet doesn’t seem to have anything to wonder about regarding crows. He knows all he needs to know.

Crows Mate for Death

I know all about them
they’re brilliant and greasy things
you can see it in their stare
and the way they stick together
they have fingers on the ends of their wings
but they hide them when they fly
I think they have teeth

they live forever
have you ever seen a dead one?

some of the smaller ones dress up
like blue jays and robins from time to time
I’ve seen the extra feathers scattered here and there
they can speak English
I heard one once in third grade
his name was jojo

a group of crows is called a murder
it’s no mistake
you could look it up it’s true

they’re responsible for pearl harbor hiroshima
the assassination of archduke ferdinand
the failure of savings and loans
and the poisoning of our school kids with whole language

they accept donations from foreign investors
they do unspeakable things to the publicly dead
and they wait
there are so many of them
they can afford to wait

they watch me from the roadside
they know I’m not going anywhere

not really
you gotta believe me         they know all about me
crows are made for death

~ Bruce Dethlefsen

From Bruce Dethlefsen, Unexpected Shiny Things (Cowfeather Press, 2011), page 64 (© 2011 Bruce Dethlefsen).

Dethlefsen riff’s off the ways crows are sometimes used in the folklore as an omen that something bad is about to occur, as well as the common association of crows with death. This becomes, in my reading, a metaphor for the human tendency of humans to scapegoat. Dethlefsen takes suspicion of crows to an extreme. By doing this, he turns a critical light on human suspicions of the “out group” without having to be preachy.

There is an interesting turn in the poem, which begins with the narrator knowing all about crows, and ending with the crows knowing all about the narrator.

The common phrase, “mate for life,” seems to apply to most crows, unless they are unsuccessful in breeding, or one of the pair dies.  The title, however, says, “Crows Mate for Death.” That fits with the view of crows in the poem, and set up an interesting wordplay with the last line, “crows are made for death.”

Burde Dethlefsen was the 2011-2012 Poet Laureate of Wisconsin. You can learn more about him and his poetry at You can order Unexpected Shiny Things at

Here are some links to poems about crows on the Internet:
*Robert Frost, “Dust of Snow” -
*Cornelius Eady, “Crows in a Strong Wind” from Victims of the Latest Dance Craze -
*Ted Hughes, several poems from his book of mythic poems, Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow -
*Joni Mitchell, “Black Crow” (song lyrics) -

M. J. Iuppa has a chapbook entitled, “As the Crow Flys.”(
with crows as its central image. Recommended by Karla Linn Merrifield.

April Poetry Challenge
April is National Poetry Month - a good month to try your had at the poetry challenge. Whether you do that or not, I encourage you to read a lot of poetry this month, and share some poems you like with others. If you don't write a crow poem, write one about whatever you want to write about (just for yourself, not to submit to this poetry challenge). Writing poetry can be therapeutic and liberating.

Read about, think about, or best of all, go outdoors and spend time with crows. Write a poem in which crows play an important row. They may just be themselves, crows in the natural world. Or they may be may be metaphors.

Your poem can be free verse or formal. If formal, please specify the form. Please submit only one poem during any particular month.

The deadline is midnight Central Standard Time is April 15. Poems submitted after the April 15 deadline will not be considered.

Due to formatting difficulties, I prefer that poems be left justified and not have indentations or spaces in the middle of lines.

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, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but 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]. Be sure provide your e-mail address. When you submit your poem, add a note indicating where you took poetic license with the facts of your life. The poem should be in first person, as if it actually happened to the speaker in the poem. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name, exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win, at the end of the poem.

© 2013 Wilda Morris