The Write Idea


The Seasick Sailor and Others

Filed under: Poetry — ljcollins @ 12:42 pm

Just discovered a new poem and new poet, quoted in David Whyte’s book, The Three Marriages. See if you can figure out which authors Alden Nowlan refers to in this poem.


The awkward young sailor who is always seasick
Is the one who will write about ships.
The young man whose soldiery consists in the delivery
Of candy and cigarettes to the front
Is the one who will write about war.
The man who will never learn to drive a car
And keeps going home to his mother
Is the one who will write about the road.

Stranger still, hardly anyone else will write so well
About the sea or war or the road. And then there is the woman
who has scarcely spoken to man except her brother
and who works in a room no larger than a closet,
she will write as well as anyone who has ever lived
about vast open spaces and the desires of the flesh:
and that other woman who will live with her sister and
rarely leave her village, she will excel
in portraying men and women in society:
and that woman, in some ways the most wonderful of them all,
who is afraid to go outdoors, who hides when someone knocks,
she will write great poems about the universe inside her.


  1. Okay. First of all, I adore the poem and it knocks that old saw “write what you know” on its head.

    So: Melville? Hemingway? Kerouac? Now I’m gonna embarrass myself with the women. One of the Brontës? Woolf? Dickinson.

    Comment by PJ — 05/25/2010 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  2. Oh, you’re good. Right on all the men. Right on the last woman. Right on the first, but which sister? Next!

    Comment by ljcollins — 05/25/2010 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

  3. Emily!

    Are you gonna provide all the answers after a decent interval? 😉

    Comment by PJ — 05/25/2010 @ 2:16 pm | Reply

  4. You’re hardly giving anyone else a chance to think, but yes, I will provide the one remaining answer if nobody else gets it. :p
    But I feel sure somebody will.

    Comment by ljcollins — 05/25/2010 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

  5. Sorry! 😦

    Comment by PJ — 05/25/2010 @ 2:51 pm | Reply

  6. Emily Bronte? Is Jane Austen the 2nd woman?

    Comment by Tayria Ward — 05/25/2010 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

  7. Yes and yes! Congratulations to my two astute readers. Can you believe Jack never learned to drive??

    Comment by ljcollins — 05/25/2010 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

  8. I love this poem and quiz! Thank you. While not as literate a most readers of this blog, I did correctly guess Hemingway and Kerouac and had Dickinson as a suspect. Thanks again – this was fun.

    Comment by Steve Collins — 05/25/2010 @ 7:21 pm | Reply

  9. Interesting! Seems it all boils down to meaning-making. Mind and imagination.

    Comment by Scott Weber — 05/26/2010 @ 1:32 pm | Reply

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