by Leah Sommers
“And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:
And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.
Also he sent forth a dove. . . ”
This fortnight’s challenge, to open on June 21st 2016, is to write about Noah’s raven. It has been flitting about in the back of my mind as a matter of curiosity, not fully pursued, for over ten years now, when one of the first bloggers I ever read, Daniel Silliman, posted the Biblical quotation above along with the simple question, “What’s with Noah’s raven?”
Probably due to this and the fact that several of my favorite poems happen to feature black birds of one sort or another, this was the first idea that came to my mind when Alana suggested I devise the next challenge, and though I considered several others it’s the one to which my mind kept returning. It was only after having settled on it and doing a little online searching that I learned there is already a poem in existence by W.S. Merwin called “Noah’s Raven”, which I will not post here due to copyright considerations, but interested readers may care to look it up independently. I also commend to your attention (what else?) “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens, and “Black Rook in Rainy Weather” by Sylvia Plath, all of which elaborate admirably and agreeably, in their different ways, on the innate poetic potential of these creatures.
Ambiguously portent, brooding, untamed, the raven, blackbird, and crow alike possess an undeniable appeal to the archetypal imagination, that mysterious function linking consciousness with unknown realms of intimation and numinous glimmering. How to distill this essence? Rather than do so, let us take this as an invitation into reverie and hard work, in the expectation of being rewarded with salutary results.
Lest this challenge prove too imaginatively constricting or exegetically daunting, it is not necessary to make Noah’s raven explicitly the subject of your poem. The only requirement is that it must be worked in somehow, allusion or metaphorical aside being perfectly sufficient fulfillment.
And now be clever, be creepy, be funny, be mysterious, be silly, or soulful, or wise! But take up your pen. The raven is waiting.
Editor’s note: As always, everyone is welcome and once the challenge opens on Tuesday, June 21 2016, it remains open forever. We will post our poems in the comment section of a new post beginning on that day. We like to offer appreciation and criticism to our fellow poets in the challenge, but we orient it around detecting virtues rather than vices. If you are interested in the process or want to contribute right away, feel free to search for past challenges and go to the comments section. Just note that there are two posts for each challenge: the introduction and the “post your poems” post.