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“O Duty!” wrote Ogden Nash, “why hast thou not the visage of a sweetie or a cutie?”

“Duty,” “obligation”–these can be trying words for a poet (especially one trying hard to get time to write).  They can mean everything from a sink of dirty dishes to a day job to a requirement to smile.

If you are a U.S. poet (actually a U.S. person of any stripe), mid-April is a time when duty/obligation can feel especially onerous.  (For those international readers, mid-April is the U.S. due date for annual tax returns!)

But on a deeper level, duty and obligation do not just signify burdens; they can also be doors to opportunity, goads for transcendence, moments of connection.

A wonderful example of the positive side of duty can be found in Pablo Neruda’s, “The Poet’s Obligation,” which he addresses to “whoever is not listening to the sea/ this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up/in house or office, factory or woman/or street or mine or harsh prison cell.”

Neruda goes on to describe his obligation, as a poet, to:

“feel the crash of the hard water
and gather it up in a perpetual cup
so that, wherever those in prison may be,
wherever they suffer the autumn’s castigation,
I may be there with an errant wave….” 

Linda Pastan sets forth a darker view in “The Obligation to be Happy”:  “It is more onerous/than the rites of beauty/or housework, harder than love.”

I urge you to read both of these terrific poems in full.  But now to our own poetry!

The prompt for this week’s Poetics is the subject of duty, obligation, or any possible permutation thereof–whether the fulfillment, the shirking, the questioning, the particularizing (as in a list of chores), or even the V.A.T.

So, Poets, your duty today:  tax your brains and write, post, and link a poem!

Here’s how it works…

    • Write your poem.
    • Post it on your blog.
    • Click the Mr. Linky button below, and in the new window that opens up input your name and direct url of the poem.
    • Visit others who have taken the challenge.
    • Have fun!
(The drawing above of a man dragging a rowboat across a field – perhaps in need of one of Neruda’s errant waves – is by Jason Martin. And, for those who don’t know, I, Manicddaily, also go by the name of Karin Gustafson.)