New challenge from J. Patrick Lewis: “In the lives of . . . “

BULLETIN: Our year’s first four goslings made their maiden voyage on the lake this evening. They swam a few feet, safely sandwiched between their parents, and returned to safety near the shore. They hatched on our neighbor’s yard about a foot from the water.

Hi everyone,

What would Poetry Month be without a new challenge from U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis? The answer is, incomplete. With my thanks to Pat, here it is in his own words. I look forward to the fun this one will unleash.
J. Patrick Lewis
Dear David,

The seventh quatrain of Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” reads:

“Lives of great men all remind us 

We can make our lives sublime, 

And, departing, leave behind us 

Footprints on the sands of time”

Remove “great men all remind us.”
Replace it with a trochee, and rewrite the quatrain accordingly.
“Lives of husbands all remind us . . .”

Or an amphimacer: “Lives of astronauts remind us . . .”

Or a di-trochee: “Lives of auto dealers tell us . . .”

Ernest Hemingway parodied Longfellow as follows:

“Lives of football men remind us,
We can dive and kick and slug,
And departing leave behind us,
Hoof prints on another’s mug.”

Here are two of my own:

Lives of ping pong champs unnerve you:
Win the war but lose the battle.
Tables turn and life may serve you
Up a creek without a paddle.

Lives of distance runners tell us
Victory goes to the young,
Exuberant, and overzealous
Kid who has an extra lung.

Pat, I accept your “In the lives of . . .” challenge. Here are two attempts.

Lives of alley cats remind us
They will bite the feeding hand
And, departing, leave behind them
Clinkers in a box of sand.

Lives of boulders may seem boring
Yet their calling is sublime.
Where would Sisyphus be without them
Up and down the hill of time?

64 comments on “New challenge from J. Patrick Lewis: “In the lives of . . . “

  1. This one is going to take some brain power that I don’t have right now — but I’ll be back! Heehee – I am right now writing a cat poem, so I enjoyed your litter box verse, David. 🙂

    Thanks to Pat!

  2. Oh, I can’t resist these things. Thank you (?!?!) David and JPL.
    Off the cuff:

    Lives of leprechauns remind us
    Be ye small, yet be ye bold –
    while we be chasing rainbows
    it’s them that keeps the gold.

  3. The lives of fishermen remind us,
    Cast your bait into the river,
    Then, departing, take the empties,
    Never mind about your liver.

  4. David and Pat,

    Great fun! I’ll pass these along to my students and also hope to try them myself. P.S. to Pat, my Intro to Lit students just talked about your great short poem “The Unkindest Cut” in the Compact Bedford. Thanks for that as well!

    • Thank you, Marjorie. I look forward to reading contributions from your students (and you)!
      Hey Pat, are you paying attention? You have a fan. Who knew?

  5. Lives of toiling bards remind us
    We emote with words sublime,
    Though rejected oft and cruelly,
    Ours to write till out of time.

  6. Lives of blog post readers show us
    Precious little is our time;
    We could spend eternity
    Searching for the perfect rhyme.

    Lives of movie actors show us
    Something hard to comprehend:
    One can make a million dollars
    Playing “dress-up” and “pretend.”

    Lives of taxidermists show us
    Skills and talent quite uncommon,
    Even though their old profession
    Dates far back to Tutankhamen.

    (ok, I was stretching on that last one!)

    -Matt Forrest Esenwine

  7. Pat, thank you for providing this new game. I’ll leave it up tomorrow too. We’re having too much fun to quit yet. This is a versatile format. Here’s how it looks on a more romantic note.

    The lives of those we love remind us,
    Fleeting as our flames may be,
    When departing demonstrate
    Love and being loved’s the key.

  8. David,
    I’m learning all the technical stuff, and mainly write “by ear”. So, don’t hesitate to point out any problems with my attempt.

    Lives of dinosaurs remind us
    that our fame is meteoric,
    and somewhere down the line
    we’ll be labeled prehistoric.

    • Good morning, Penny,
      This is very funny. You might consider rephrasing your third line to create four distinct accents with the same pattern that the other three have: Da da Da da Da da Da da. Thanks for joining the challenge!

      • Penny, that makes a difference by suggesting to the reader that the established pattern of accented and unaccented syllables is to continue.

      • Yes, but after I hit “post”, I realized that “that” is used twice…I was all focused on one fix and not tending to my poem as a whole! Thanks for the mini lesson!
        By the way, I enjoyed the story over at“How children’s author David Harrison found his calling Trained as a scientist, he became a champion of literacy”.

      • Happens all the time, Penny. Tuck in one loose hair and another falls out. I figured you’d catch the renegade and take care of it. I’m glad you liked the article. I thought that Juliana did a beautiful job.

  9. David,
    Thanks for the challenge! Here’s one dedicated to my to boys who are chomping at the bit for it to warm up enough to get the fishing poles out:

    Lives of rainbow trout remind us,
    as we’re casting in the brook,
    If a free lunch bobs before us,
    snoop around for line and hook.

    • Hi Michelle,
      Thanks for reminding us of the lives of trout. My son will love this especially. A few years ago we went fishing in Alaska together. Quite a trip!

  10. David, I went back and read some of the comments after I submitted mine, and see that you wrote a fishing poem as well. Are you chomping at the bit to hit the fishing hole too?

  11. I guess Penny and I had similar thoughts (and I kind of like yours better, Penny..but I’ll still post mine.)

    Lives of dinosaurs remind us
    We might rule the earth for ages,
    But others will find our fossils
    And write our story on their pages.

    Cicadas’ lives remind us,
    all things come to those who wait,
    Seventeen years beneath the ground—
    An orgy of days to buzzz and mate.

    • Great minds indeed, Buffy!
      I hope the poor cicadas haven’t frozen during the long winter. They’ll be ready to buzz for sure!

  12. Good ones, Penny & Vikram! Ok, two more. Darn it, Pat, you’ve got to stop doing this to us!! 😉

    Lives of meteorologists
    Confirm one thing is true:
    No matter how splendid their training is…
    They haven’t got a clue.

    Lives of internet marketers
    Are quite enviable (that’s how they spin it),
    For they all seem to make
    A huge hourly rate –
    ‘Cause a sucker is born every minute.

    • Matt, I think you’re the most prolific among us for Day One. Let’s see if anyone can topple you on Thursday! Thanks for taking the challenge. I’ve enjoyed your “In the lives of . . . ” poems.

  13. A jorum of a toast to one and all for bringing a chuckle to Longfellow’s mausoleum somewhere along the shores of Gitche Gumee. Poets can always benefit from mental calisthenics, which is what these hijinks are intended to provide. So I thank you all for your time and wacky ingenuity. Now get back on your meds.

    • Greetings, Pat, from the shores of Goose Lake. And a fine time has been had by all. I’m leaving the challenge up for a second day. I have a feeling that several of our poets are not finished. Thanks again for provoking so many feverish imaginations into action!

  14. Pingback: Riddle#21 Darkness | The Vibrant Channeled Creator

  15. Very well, I will.

    Lives of chocolate cakes remind us
    Beauty’s only frosting deep,
    Once we lick the icing off,
    What’s beneath we seldom keep.

  16. Ha–I will eat that cake even after the icing is gone. Especially if it is chocolate. Here’s another for the morning:

    Lives of billiard balls remind us
    we might take a knock or four;
    a steady hand will persevere
    and even up the score.

    And I’ve smoothed out the rhythm of my previous two (it’s a lot easier to hear the bumps in the morning than when writing late at night–and now my poor cicadas only have to wait thirteen years instead of seventeen. For all those biology geeks out there, according to Wikipedia “The length of the cycle appears to be controlled by a single gene locus, with the 13-year cycle dominant to the 17-year one.” Fascinating stuff!)

    Lives of dinosaurs remind us
    We might rule the earth for ages,
    ‘Til other creatures find our fossils
    And write our story on their pages.

    Cicadas’ lives remind us,
    all things come to those who wait,
    Thirteen years beneath the ground—
    Three weeks to buzzz and mate.

    Lives of athletes will remind us
    Not to be so overzealous,
    Showing off for your own ego
    Will leave teammates feeling jealous.

    (C) Charles Waters 2013 all rights reserved.

  18. From a waterlogged Chicago, here are my submissions with more in progress!

    Lives of nasty trolls remind us
    that they love to gobble goat.
    But for all their bluster, all they leave
    is a hungry anecdote.

    Lives of vampires may remind us
    that forever could be dull.
    Ne’er departing they remind us
    carpe diem–live each day full

    LIves of librarians remind us
    that reading opens any door.
    And departing leave behind them
    shelves of treasured books galore.

    Thanks for a fun challenge!

  19. Oh gosh. I’m not too happy with either of these, for totally different reasons–sappiness on one, meter issues on the other. But…it was fun to try and a nice after-dinner treat:>)

    Lives of terrorists remind us
    what a fragile life we live.
    Reject the bombs that try to bind us.
    Let hatred drain from heart’s fine sieve.

    and, on a lighter note, inspired by out big snowstorm right now:

    Lives of trick-or-treaters prove it.
    Winter weather leaves its mark.
    A costume? Might as well remove it
    when it hides beneath a parka.

    • Hi Laura! What a pleasure to see you paying a visit. Thanks for both of these. You are being too hard on yourself!

  20. These are a bit addictive. Here are two more from me:

    Lives of ladybugs remind us,
    Nature bluffs and it deceives;
    we admire scarlet costumes–
    poison seeps from beetles’ knees.

    Lives of grocery stores remind us,
    buy some pickles; processed cheese;
    wonder bread; chips and cheetos;
    food with lifetime guarantees.

  21. Pingback: Lives of billiard balls, dinosaurs, bugs, and bread | Buffy's Blog

  22. I left mine up with David’s other ‘poet’ one, because I wrote before I read. Here’s a different one.

    Lives of editors should remind us
    that much of the work ends up on the floor.
    Or dragged to the trash if we’re creating a Word doc.
    Like Poe we say too often, “nevermore, nevermore”.

  23. Wow, a lot happened while I was grading. Here’s an off-the-cuff response:
    The lives of teachers sure can “teach” us–
    when you duck away a bit
    then chuck red pens to check Dave’s fun site,
    there has been a lot more writ! 🙂

  24. Okay, these are late, but it’s been that kind of a week.

    Lives of scatterbrains remind us
    Life is loopy, have some pie!
    What? It isn’t in the cupboard?
    I will find it by and by.

    Lives of one-year-olds remind us
    Life is touch and taste and trust
    Toddling, teething, peek-a-boo
    Nighty night and meals of mush.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s