Write a Poem on One of These Images The Society January 19, 2020 Beauty, Culture, Ekphrastic, Poetry, Poetry Contests 38 Comments The above photographs were taken and submitted by New York City poet Joe Tessitore. We invite readers to pick one of the images (or both) and write a poem. Post your poem in the comments section below. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 38 Responses Alex Andy Phuong January 19, 2020 “Being” People do what they do Some animals live in a zoo Some human beings forget That they are animals, too Unite humanity To create a better world Reply Joe Tessitore January 19, 2020 See ‘Em at the Museum Boys poised, side by side. Chests protruding, strength exuding. Flesh and bone and wrought in stone. I caught ‘em both on my I Phone. Jungle King The king waits for the bus. What is there to discuss? I think I’ll take a cab. Reply Monty January 30, 2020 Regarding the title of your above poem, Joe: you (and others) may or may not wish to know that the words “see ‘em” and “museum” were once used (ingeniously, I thought) as a rhyme by Joni Mitchell in her ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ (in which she tells us of a wooded area – real or imagined: it makes no difference – which’d been annihilated to make way for a new car-park). They took all the trees And put ‘em in a tree museum; And they charged the people A dollar-an’-a-half just to see ‘em! Don’t it always seem to go That ya don’t know what ya’v got Till it’s gone . . . They paved paradise, An’ put up a parking-lot. Reply Alan January 19, 2020 The Concrete Jungle The “concrete jungle” used to be a name That humans used to represent their place, But lions might not want to play our game. Not one to cage, not one to ever tame, So who will be the prey and who will chase? The “concrete jungle” used to be a name. If beasts returned to town, would they reclaim Their land and leave our homes without a trace? The lions might not want to play our game. If soon the trees and growing vines became Our masters, could we match their rapid pace? The “concrete jungle” used to be a name. What will become of all this burning flame? Will time run out or will we face disgrace? The lions might not want to play our game. One thing that we must here and now proclaim: We humans aren’t the only living race; The “concrete jungle” used to be a name, But lions might not want to play our game. Reply Monty March 7, 2020 Clever poetry, Alan . . and a warning to us all. Reply Joseph S. Salemi January 19, 2020 The great Assyrian Lamassu Right next to the cleaning crew. A lion on a New York Street Looking somewhat bushed by heat. Reply C.B. Anderson January 19, 2020 Joseph, I was tempted to respond to these prompts, but I don’t see how I could top your contributions. Reply Angel L Villanueva January 19, 2020 Seeking To Devour Do not ignore his frightful roar, But quickly strive to shut your door, For he will seek your faith to raze, To make you leave what you adore. A master hunter in his ways, With avid eyes he waits for preys. But keep your senses and perceive The traps he lays to end your days. Reply Gerald Weeks January 19, 2020 Standing tall, flesh or rock, erect, yet to expect the living or hewn as alter ego’s adjacent; they exhibit no inhibit as sentinels old and recent, so no time is told for the young and old, no rhyme or reason is nascent. Reply James A. Tweedie January 20, 2020 A famous sculptor hired me to pose. He’s good at what he does, so I have heard. I think he did a nice job with my nose, But really messed up big time on the beard. He gave me wings, a tail, and hooves as well. But even so, I think that you’ll agree That looking at it closely you can tell The finished statue looks a lot like me! ***** A mascot in the NFL Should be a happy guy. But if you’re from Detroit, oh well, You hang your head and cry. Reply David Watt January 20, 2020 Ahead of Their Time In Mesopotamia long ago Science was primitive, so they say, Lacking in splicing or G.M.O. But Lamassu’s features, by light of day, Lead me to ponder how they could grow Creatures as mixed as a stand-up buffet. Reply David Watt January 20, 2020 Oh For a Lion I wish I had a lion! I’d keep it in the street To frighten all the passers-by And hunt its own fresh meat. But when the landlord called, My lion would be there To catch him wholly unawares, And chase him down the stair. Reply Shari Jo LeKane January 20, 2020 The lion forever changes its mane, a sign of growth, strength, adaptability, lifelong learning, character and wisdom gained through a lifetime of experience. The lion knows how to pick its battles, what is worth defending for the pride, for the sake of survival, for the sake of love and loyalty, and ultimately, when to simply walk away. Reply Sally Cook January 20, 2020 . Tiger, tiger in my sight, .Striped, just like a honey bee In deepest black and golden yellow. One nasty sting, or awful bite Prove neither is a friendly fellow. Reply peter venable January 20, 2020 Martin Luther King came not as a sphinx But as a prophet, to break racial caste And to change the lies humanity thinks: “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Reply Monty January 30, 2020 That’s an imaginative interpretation of the above photo . . as well as being a nice (and true) sentiment. Well interpreted. Reply Martin Elster January 20, 2020 The Lion of the City The lion of the city came to feed at night on sounds of trains and taxi honks, the stench of pee and trash. He had no need to hang with friends at the big zoo in the Bronx. The lion of the city, belly grumbling, padded on velvet paws along the street and, echoing his belly, trains were rumbling under the jungle fashioned of concrete. The lion of the island of Manhattan, lapping dirty water from the gutter, was gifted with a mane no other cat in the world enjoyed. Unconscious of the clutter of buses, cars, and feet, carrying laughter and grief and rage and multitudes of moods, this feline fugitive — what was he after? Wildebeest do not like these latitudes. Take pity on the lion of the city! Anon he was detected by the warden. The lion of the city was no kitty. Anon he was surrounded by a cordon. The people of the city watched the lion. They watched him crouch and heard him snarl and growl, smelled fear and thought, “He soon will be in Zion. This place is no place for big cats to prowl.” He heard the shot. His ears began to ring. He felt a stab of pain and then of sorrow for those who didn’t reckon him the king of beasts from Nuka Hiva to Kilimanjaro. The towers and lights and witnesses went dark. Dreaming of lionesses and gazelle, he lumbers round the grasslands of the park or lazes under beeches, bored to hell. The people watch the lion at the zoo. They’ve come from Brooklyn or Louisiana, exclaiming, “That’s a lion through and through,” imagining him roaming the savanna. Reply C.B. Anderson January 21, 2020 How sad it is when kings must stoop Before an urban gutter filled with poop. You see it in that noble feline’s eyes That pride’s the first entitlement that dies. Reply C.B. Anderson January 21, 2020 Corrected version: How sad it is when mighty kings must stoop Before an urban gutter filled with poop. You see it in that noble feline’s eyes, That pride’s the first entitlement that dies. Reply Amy January 21, 2020 God or Man? “God or Man?” he asks of me, “That truth of which I’m told. Tell me if you can,” says he, “Which path does lead to gold?” “Of riches internal or outwards?” I ask. “Of wealth overflowing or small?” “Of that which will flower this desert” says he, “Of that which births roads from a wall.” “Of roads with the eye or the soul?” I reply. “Whichever will guide me to grace,” he says as he turns to the tourist and sighs, “Of that which will find me a face.” “What makes an empire?” I ask of the man. “A leader” says he, with a grin. “But what makes one lasting and loved throughout time?” “Their heart” he replies as a win. “But how are you sure if it’s good or it’s ill?” “By my own” he replies with a bend. “But what if your own is defective, my dear? Just how will you know what will mend?” He thought upon these questions, then turned to me and said, “Why do we call bread broken, when through its tear, we’re fed? If plurals build on singulars, and truth does set men free to break the flesh’s fetters, might man’s letters hold the key?” “You ask a crucial question, which my return’s, “Because- how can we have a word which ‘is’, if something never ‘was’?” “To build upon a form,” says he, “A true form must exist, for stories, songs, and artist’s hands, to undertake this twist.” He motions to a statue, and to this I do reply, “Wise is he, whose soul can see the wings by which it flies.” “God or Man?” I ask of him who laughs and takes my hand. “Now I see the path ahead, and know on which I stand.” Reply Monty March 7, 2020 What an unusual poem, Amy. It’s very well-written . . and in a way which holds the reader’s attention till the end. Well played. Reply AJK January 29, 2020 Some people say it’s a jungle out there, but I am a fearless fighter. No matter what gets in my way— I will break through. Reply Mia March 6, 2020 Visiting the Zoo Have I missed the bus should I wait here, Will there be another one? Is this water safe to drink, Looks like someone’s left a tap open, It is water isn’t it? The cabs have disappeared, It is obviously not a night to be out, Go on then, take a selfie of my night on the tiles I don’t think I’ll be back any time soon, Call this a place to live? Why they’ve killed everything green and man used to think he was king- building grey castles of concrete for his own convenience monumental tombs, for colossal fools. Reply Mia March 7, 2020 A Lion Weeps No, I am no longer angry And certainly not glad or contemptuous Just extremely forlorn, For I could no longer protect them The situation untenable, There was nowhere left to live and The water unsafe to drink But the only consolation Is that they’ve been brought down, Not by elephants, lions or tigers, But by a microscopic virus called- The Crown What could I have done? When they covered the world with concrete, So much so, attempting to make images of me that it encased their hearts and feet. They might have lived in peace But they were deliberately obtuse, -Forgive them for they know not what they do? In the twenty first century? Ignorance could no longer serve as an excuse. Reply Monty March 7, 2020 I don’t care much for your style of poetry, Mia: but I find myself mildly intrigued with the things you’re saying.. and the intentionally minimalistic way in which you say them. There are so many lines in the above two pieces which, individually, are perfectly ambiguous. Some will say that the use of ambiguity is a poet’s prerogative, and others may say that if a poet strays too far into ambiguity, it starts leaning towards the abstract. My own feelings on the matter are mixed; I’m not sure where a line should be drawn . . and I’m not sure if a line even NEEDS to be drawn. Reply Mia March 7, 2020 Thank you so much for your comment. It is so helpful for me that you find the poems ambiguous. They are not intentionally so however. Absolutely not and therefore your comment has helped me to try and see them in a new light. I have found the images so amazing and found myself really almost compelled to write. It is a shame that I am not able to do the images justice though. My feeble excuse is that English is my second language and as that it is probably so for many people and I learnt English a long time ago, is not an excuse I can use much. But I find that somehow it influences my writing. I also wanted to explain that they are both from the point of view of a lion and how it might feel about human beings. I do not have the same feelings that might come across in the poem however. Perhaps that is where the ambiguity is. Again thank you, I will try and think more from the point of view of the reader rather than taking it for granted that the meaning is clear. Mia March 7, 2020 It has worked. Now I don’t care much for my style of writing either! If I could delete them I would. Reply Monty March 8, 2020 You misread my last missive, Mia: I never mentioned your “style of writing”. In actual fact, after I started reading the ‘Zoo’ piece, it was your very “style of writing” which compelled me to continue reading till the end; and which subsequently compelled me to read the ‘Lion’ piece. What I actually said was: “I don’t care much for your style of poetry”.. which has got nothing to do with your “style of writing” – they’re two separate things. By “style of poetry”, I was referring to the fact that both of your pieces resembled poetry only in the sense that they were written in lines, and each line started with a capital letter. Other than that, there were no rhymes; none of the lines were of equal length; and they both contained a few grammatical errors. To me, they were both akin to ‘free verse’.. a style of poetry which I haven’t got any time for . . hence my admission that “I don’t care much for your style of poetry”. But your “style of writing” intrigued me. For a start, it’s unusual to see a piece (‘Zoo’) in which the first four lines are four individual questions (for which, there should be a question-mark after each of the four lines).. but why not? I think it’s a novel way to start a poem if the questions act as an entry into the rest of the piece. I also found it unusual that the piece was written, more or less, in individual lines; and that some of the lines bore no relevance to the line before or after. That’s why I assumed you were being intentionally ambiguous or minimalistic. If you’re now saying that the ambiguity wasn’t intentional, then I’ll attempt to show you how it was, none the less, the epitome of ambiguity. Let’s start with the title: ‘Visiting The Zoo. I realise that this title doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the poem should be explicitly about visiting a zoo; but it’s safe to suppose that that’s what a reader would infer. Thus, we’ve got a 17-line poem titled ‘Visiting The Zoo’ . . and yet not one single line has any inference at all to visiting a zoo! Indeed, the very first line: “Have I missed the bus” might leave the reader wondering if the title should instead be: ‘After Visiting The Zoo’ (and I’m now waiting for the bus home). In another line we have: “..not a night to be out” – which might leave a reader thinking: ‘But zoo-visits are generally daytime things’; and then another line saying: “..take a selfie of my night on the tiles.” – which would surely puzzle most readers into wondering: ‘Is this a poem about someone visiting a zoo; or is it a poem about someone’s night on the tiles?’ D’you see what I’m saying, Mia? There’s no base for the reader to discern what the poem’s actually about; at least not until L12: “..they’ve killed everything green”: at which point the reader may suddenly think: ‘Ah, perhaps it’s an environmental poem.. in which case all the previous lines make even less sense’. Also in the same line: “..they have killed . . “ – who is “they”? There’s nothing before that line to indicate to the reader who “they” is. Does “they” refer to Man in general? Or does it refer to some particular developers who’ve concreted over some grass at a certain location? This is what I mean when I say ambiguous. There are similar ambiguities in the ‘Lion’ piece: L4.. “I could no longer protect them” – who is “them”? The reader may infer that the “them” refers to lions, owing to the title, but they can’t be sure! In L9.. “They’ve been brought down” . . again, who is “they”? Is it Man? Also, the two uses of the word “they” in lines 17-18: “THEY might’ve lived in peace. But THEY were deliberately obtuse.” Do both of the “theys” refer to lions? Do both of the “theys” refer to Man? Or does the first “they” refer to lions, and the second “they” to man? Can you see what I’m saying, Mia: it’s ambiguity in its purest form. I will say that the ‘Lion’ piece was a lot more clearer to the reader as to what the subject-matter may be; but you must help the reader to keep a grip on different aspects of the poem. You said as much yourself in your last missive: “I will try to think more from the point of view of the reader, rather than take it for granted that the meaning is clear.” That’s it in a nutshell. It’s such an easy and common mistake for an author to make: “The meaning is clear to me, so I assume it’ll be clear to the reader.” It’s not always the case. I implore you to banish any thoughts of “deleting” both pieces. Like I said initially, I was intrigued with what you were trying to say in both pieces; it was evident to me that they were both heartfelt pieces – written with genuine feeling and concern – and I was able to empathise immediately with your concerns. I’ve suggested previously on these pages that the ideal reason for one to write a poem is . . “A sentiment deeply felt by the author, which they wish to convey to others”. That is exactly what you’ve done with your two pieces above, Mia; and for that reason alone, they don’t deserve to be deleted! They just need to be revised or modified. And if you care to take such action, I’d be interested to see the results. p.s. Regarding the two lines you wrote: “Why, they’ve killed everything green” “When they covered the world with concrete” . . . if you wanna know how much I empathised with those words, look above and find Joe Tessitore’s poem earlier in this thread called: ‘See ‘Em at the Museum’ . . under which I made a comment pertaining to his title. Read that comment . . Reply Mia March 9, 2020 I feel so privileged to get such feedback. I cannot thank you enough. I will read it over again because I do tend to make a lot of mistakes when I am writing or reading at certain times. Not always but sometimes. Such as misreading your comment. But I hope I have conveyed how much I appreciate you taking the time to comment and in such a thoughtful way. It has already helped me immensely. Monty March 9, 2020 That’s what these pages are for, Mia. I myself have learnt a lot about the inner-workings of poetry since joining SCP. Mia March 7, 2020 I know I am taking a risk, but I hope this one is better. I caught a glimpse of Aslan once, Padding softly, quietly, humbly, Through the dark New York city streets, When the whole city slumbered In a plethora of dreams. He was worn-out and weary, But still he strove his strength to give, To the precious souls asleeping waiting for the dawn to sing. And I stretched out my hand to touch him, but I found I could not reach, And he looked at me with languor Though his piercing eyes implored, Follow me, but remember, just remember, The decision must be yours. And I stretched out my hand to touch him, But I found I could not reach, For the obstacles before me, Formed a wall I could not breach. Reply Monty March 11, 2020 The last stanza is really nice, Mia, really poetic. If I may use that stanza to make a few suggestions as to how the lines could be made more equal in length: “(And) I stretched out (my hand) to touch him” . . the ‘and’ is not necessary; and you don’t need to say ‘my hand’: the reader will know that you’re referring to your hand, ‘coz when we stretch out to touch something, we generally only do so with our hand, not any other part of the body. “But (I) found I could not reach” . . the first ‘I’ isn’t wrong, but it’s unnecessary. The line reads exactly the same with or without the first ‘I’. Writing poetry is all about word-economy, to use the fewest words to say the most. The above suggestions would enable the stanza to read as follows, with three lines out of the four containing an equal amount of syllables (notice how much neater a poem looks on the page when the lines are more or less equal in length): I stretched out to touch him, But found I could not reach; The obstacles before me formed A wall I could not breach. Reply Mia March 11, 2020 Thank you for showing me how editing a few words can make such a difference. Also your earlier comment helped to write a third poem and I am really pleased with it. I read your comment about the Joni Mitchell song earlier before you mentioned it. I did not have the courage to comment that I know that song as it used to play over in my head, if that is the correct phrase. Today I watched a tree across the road from me being cut down. It was perhaps 100 years old and I am in total shock. We certainly don’t know what we’ve got till its gone! I would like to thank you and the Society of Classical poets. I am so impressed with the focus on classical poetry and the need for accuracy. I think we have at times lost that elsewhere and some have become comfortable with a free verse approach. It wasn’t your comment you see that made me want to delete them. I am really not a fan of free verse! I think, ‘Would like to have done a lot better’, may be a good epitaph for me! Monty March 14, 2020 A better epitaph might read: “I subsequently done a lot better”. Mia March 14, 2020 Thank you Monty. I think that the news being all doom and gloom has affected me. At first I tried to make light hearted jokes about the corona virus thinking that it would be just like any other cold or flu. Or was just melodramatic about it. How I wish I hadn’t !Let us still hope that it is all greatly exaggerated however. So now I am gaining a little perspective. I would like to send to you and to everyone reading this my very best wishes and hope that everything will return to normal in every country soon. Best wishes Mia PS I have tried to rewrite the first two poems so they make better sense but I have been unsuccessful. I think they have served their purpose in another way though and so I am very grateful for that. Can’t wait for more photographs! Reply Monty March 20, 2020 You don’t have to wait for more photographs in order to write things, Mia; you can draw from your own thoughts and feelings. Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant March 15, 2020 Urban Lion Beneath its gilt the golden city’s red in tooth and claw; threat sneaks and seeks in bleak back streets on velvet, padding paw. When bustling bistros close and broadway shows bolt up each door, that’s when the purring prowlers prey and pounce and pierce and roar. The broke succumb to hunger as it gnaws their homeless bones. The thieves unsheathe their feral as they ravage lavish homes. The feline sirens sell blue spells to death in red light zones, as kings of concrete jungles spring from brutish, moon-kissed thrones. Reply Leo March 21, 2020 Turnaround Well, well, look at this – we have here two examples Of how men sometimes see themselves: The present-day hipster, careful to look careless, With clothes hand-picked from electronic shelves, And next to him “mighty” King Nebudchanazzar (Of distant Babylonian fame) Who grandly had himself memorialized in stone As some kind of weird hybrid. How lame. Why the king couldn’t be rendered in realism -Accurately- I’ll hazard a guess: I question King Nebudchannazar’s sanity. Was he crazy? The answer is “Yes.” But, this imagery had a deeper meaning; As a narcissist indeed, he wished to crow About strengths that he falsely believed that he had Which a mere human form could never show. The wings were an eagle’s, meant to convey Authority from On High to look down, But the body of this chiseled, stony beast Is one for which I have been renown. As the lone lion, loose and lurking on these pages, I take issue with this misappropriating. Yes, I know the statue is thousands of years old, But hipsters through the ages are who I’m hating. Obviously, Nebudchanazzar thought that he Was also as powerful as a lion, But that young hipster, striving to seem statuesque, Sees a likeness. Get real, dude. You, too, are lyin’. Through the eons, from Noah to Nebudchanazzar to now, Encroachment on my turf affects the pride. Hipsters, trying hard to look cool, bring firepower, And smile with corpses. With this, I won’t abide. Now, I have been entitled, as “The King Of The Jungle,” To the jungle; it is my right and regal lair. Big cities and small towns are where human stink belongs. Why, oh why, can’t humans just stay there? I shake my head. I know that my own harsh imagery here Is unsettling, but your visits must be discouraged. If I am the King, than I must say something, Death in my ranks gets me MADLY ENRAGED… ROOOAARRR!! I’ve had ENOUGH! TWO can play at this game… I’m gonna pay your hamlet a visit. I have some “appropriating” to do of my own. “Turnaround is fair play” – or is it? Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.