“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never -“
“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.
I first read Stephen Crane’s I Saw a Man Pursuing the Horizon in 6th grade. Eight lines of verse that – for me – encapsulates the life of a writer. For all the poetry I’ve read in the 27 years since, it’s the only poem I know by heart.
I recalled this poem after missing the cut for Nathan Bransford’s Surprisingly Essential First Page Contest. See, a little doubt reared it’s ugly head. A little, ‘hey, why the hell do I stay up nights after the wife and kids are in bed.’
At times like these, I think of this poem like a reflex. Perhaps because I relate to the man pursuing the horizon. The difference is I really think I’m going to catch it. [UPDATE: Obviously, the man pursuing the horizon thinks he’s going to catch it, too. The distinction I wanted to make is this: the Crane’s pursuer is flippin’ crazy. I mean, metaphor or not, who does he think he is? Forrest Gump? Stephen Colbert? C’mon. Twenty-seven years later, he’s still running. That’s not progress. That’s just sad. Dagnabit, now I pity the poor guy. Rather than accosting the poor man, perhaps the narrator should try to get him some help. Like a horse or a spaceship. Better yet, someone should tell him the world is flat.]
(By the way Nathan Bransford is now taking heat for his effort. I’m speechless; blown away that some would take the time and try to sandbag the contest with first pages from actual published novels. Mr. Bransford has handled the lameness with aplomb – remember kids, I still need to query agents in the future – but still, wow…just wow.)
O.K. it occurred to me I shouldn’t post the poem here for copyright reasons. See, I’m learning.
Point of clarification: when I say poem, I certainly don’t mean lyrics. Bono, no offense intended.