Last week on Next Line, Please, contributors were tasked with a formidable concept: the creation of a new hero.
Lord Byron begins Don Juan, his comic masterpiece, with the lines “I want a hero, an uncommon want, / When every year and month sends forth a new one.” These are the heroes the writers of Next Line, Please came up with.
Donald LaBranche wants a hero that can do algebra and write poetry, the head and the heart all in one!
A hero from the border lands between poetry and algebra:
some stone-hearted, scat singing daughter of a catbird
from a long-suffering, secretive brood of Quebecois
should be just the ticket. And she’s on the way, so I’ve heard.
Third row back from the front of the train, bringing a coup d’état
to restore what passes for order out of this crazy. And afterward
will surely come hearings on her provenance, talk radio doubt
about a hero in the first place. Then, time for the mob to run her out.
Ravindra Rao’s “Study of Lines” brings us back to reality to remind us that our heroes are not always what they seem.
I made a hero out of heartbreak
like a painter fixated on the eye
of a storm that passed years ago. Ache
is the language of my spine,
hunched over your scant, naked
poetry, in which every line
presages the current snow.
How could I not know?
And finally Eric Fretz who champions (and here I agree) vulnerability over brute strength:
I want a hero who doesn’t catch cold
And die of pneumonia in Greece. Who’ll grow
Old, yet in verse and politics be bold
And still “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.”
So as we’ve many times now all been told
Poetry changes nothing, yes, it’s so,
But neither does joining the armed struggle;
I want my hero here to lie and snuggle.
As for next week, David Lehman turns our attention to the poet Anna Kamienska, who offers us two great first lines:
“Sleep is what I’ll miss most when I die.”
“I walk around disguised as an overweight old lady.”
For next week, use one of these lines as a springboard, an epigram, or first line. Visit the American Scholar's page to read the full post with even more heroes and more details on the new prompt. And don't forget to tune in every Tuesday for more of Next Line, Please!