heman melville

The Seasick Sailor and Others

The awkward young sailor who is always seasickIs 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 on 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 leaves 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.

By Alden Nowlan

Can you guess which artists he is referring to?

Answer: Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson

They are all artists who looked closely at subjects precisely because they were unfamiliar with them. Per David Whyte, Nowlan's poem is "encouragement to all of us who look at what seems like an unbridgeable distance between our present lives and the work we want to accomplish."