Poetry Friday: “The Ravens”

Here it is, Robbie Burns Day – the birthday of The Bard, Scottish poet Robert Burns – and what do I have? A parody of an Edgar Allan Poe classic.

I’m not being a very good Scot.

However, in keeping with tradition, I do offer a link to an appropriate Burns piece, “Address to a Haggis.”  If you’re holding a Burns Supper today, in addition to the pipes, toasts, and requisite singing of Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne,” you’d better plan on having a dramatic reading of the culinary classic that is “Address to a Haggis.”

And of course, the haggis, neeps, and tatties.

Photo courtesy Ian Britton

And if you don’t know what haggis is, well – let me say, it’s not for everyone.  Neeps are turnips and tatties are potatoes; simple enough. Haggis, though, is a type of forcemeat consisting of most of the parts of a sheep non-Scots wouldn’t consider eating – along with oatmeal, onions, pepper, and other spices – stuffed inside the sheep’s stomach. And just because haggis is synonymous with Scotland, don’t assume everyone there loves it. There are a handful of Americans who don’t appreciate hot dogs, and there are plenty more Scots who won’t go near haggis with a 19-foot caber.

It should be noted that the flavour of haggis improves with time; specifically, time spent drinking Scotch.

Which explains a lot, actually.

But I digress…

I don’t know if it’s because I grew up listening to Stan Freberg and watching Carol Burnett on TV, if it’s due to my overdosing on Monty Python and The Goodies episodes as a kid, or because my family was just plain happy while I was growing up…but I am grateful to whoever or whatever gave me my sense of humour.

I’m not saying I’m the world’s quickest wit or funniest fellow, but I do tend to see the humour in many situations.   Just as I find poetry in everyday life, I also see the funny.

Case in point: this past Sunday night, when my poor New England Patriots fell in defeat to the powerful Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game. (For the uninitiated, the Ravens will now meet the San Francisco 49’ers in the Super Bowl. It’s kind of a big deal here.) If you saw the game, you saw the Patriots do pretty much nothing except all the things a team should not do, if it wants to advance to the Super Bowl. Interception, fumble, offsides, you name it…they did it.

But, having been born in the city of Poe, I was not entirely disappointed. I was glad to see the Ravens move on – which is probably why I was able to see humour in the Patriots’ defeat. While most Pats fans went straight to bed after screaming at their TVs for at least 20 minutes – only to continue grousing about it at work the following day – I, on the other hand, took to my computer to re-write Poe’s classic, “The Raven.”

No, not the entire poem – I’m not that ambitious, even when it’s not 11pm on a Sunday night. I wrote one stanza, incorporating the rhyme scheme and meter of the original, as a reflection of my experience of the game as a Pats fan.

(Also, again for the uninitiated:  Flacco is Joe Flacco, Baltimore’s quarterback, and Beantown is a nickname for Boston…)

The Ravens

Once upon a Sunday dreary, as the Pats played, weak and weary,
Watching all of Flacco’s passes they seemed eager to ignore –
Wide receivers, nearly napping, with their flailing arms a-flapping,
They’re the ones I felt like slapping as they worn down time and score –
“Will victory be Beantown’s??”  I asked, closely watching time and score –
Quoth the Ravens, “Nevermore!”

– 2013, Matt Forrest Esenwine

For all of today’s Poetry Friday offerings, be sure to visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference!

40 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “The Ravens”

  1. I used to subscribe to a blog (now defunct) where all the poems were (somehow, surreally) about baseball, but this is the first time I have come across a poem about American Football. Nice parody too.

    If you would like to read something about Robert Burns, however – a wee bit of weird fiction – then go here: http://mairibheag.com/2013/01/24/how-tam-o-shanter-came-to-be-written-a-tale-for-burns-night/

    Marie Marshall


  2. How very appropriate to rewrite The Raven for the Ravens! Well done 🙂 It’s hard to pick just one line that is my favorite, but this one is awfully fun to say: Wide receivers, nearly napping, with their flailing arms a-flapping,


  3. Brilliant! Poe, football, haggis, Baltimore, SF, Boston, Monty Python and Carol Burnett all in one post. I’m not a big football fan, but I know enough to have been shocked that the Patriots lost (could be the New England relatives’ influence). And I’ve never tasted haggis, but know enough to pass. Still, I’ll be baking some shortbread in Robbie’s honor. That counts, right?


  4. Hi, Matt. Since we’re being honest here, I’ll have to send you the version of “The Raven” that I wrote in the aftershock of our AFC Championship loss to the Pats last year. I’m SO happy that our Ravens are heading to the Super Bowl.


  5. Mike Hood

    I loved your poem, Matt, and your whole post. At least your Pats made the playoffs which is more than I can say for my Buccaneers or Dolphins. I followed a couple of links from my sister’s site (Robyn Hood Black) and am glad I found this. My partner Scott and I have been to many a Burns supper and though we didn’t go this year it was not for fear of haggis (I rather like it and simply try not to think of the ingredients, and yes the Scotch does help!) We try to don the kilts as often as we can and if you ever find yourself in St. Petersburg FL we will gladly share a wee dram wi’ ye!


    1. Thank you so much, Mike…I’m glad you found me! I’ve never been to FL, but would love to sometime. If I do get there, I’ll definitely look you fellows up – and I’ll bring the Glenmorangie!


  6. Now I wasn’t expecting to see Mike in the comments above… but a fun surprise! I just posted Happy Robert Burns Day on his Facebook because you reminded me of it.

    Great poem – and wherever you picked up your sense of humor, we’re all better for it.

    PS – The mention of haggis always makes me glad I’m a vegetarian.


      1. Mike Hood

        Believe it or not I think I’ve seen canned vegetarian haggis for sale at one of my favorite local shops (Lothian Kilt Rentals in Dunedin FL) and at some of the vendor tents at the various Highland Games. If indeed I do spy some I’ll get it, try it out, and let you both know what we think.


      2. Vegetarian haggis? Is that even LEGAL?? Here in New Hampshire, we host the annual Highland Games, and I was told once that one of the food vendors was selling haggis puffs that were, in his words, “to die for.” They were little bites of haggis wrapped in puff pastry…but I never had a chance to try ’em. Sitting back with a few haggis puffs, some mashed tatties, and a bit of Drambuie….THAT would be a fine meal!


  7. bargerj

    If you wrote a poem about Bill Belichick, where would be the focus? The hoodie? His brief vocal styling at press conferences? We await your next Patriots poem. I’m a Seahawks fan so I would work on an epic poem featuring Russell Wilson or one on the conundrum of having Pete Carroll as my coach.


    1. I’d say Belichek’s unique way of showing each and every human emotion with the same, dour look of consternation. I’d call it, “The Man Who Never Smiled.” There are a bunch of former Pats I could have fun with, too, in addition to Carroll: among them Parcells, Flutie, and Tiquan Underwood – who’s now with Mike (above)’s Bucs!


  8. I am so sorry I did not have your innate sense of humor one week previous when our beloved Broncos fell too to the Raven, & they are still crying “nevermore” for the team NEXT year. It was a crushing blow & the only thing that saved me was that I knew someone (Laura Shovan) who would be happy. Your poem might be sent to the editor’s page of your Boston Globe, or would it be heresy? Thanks for all, but I tried to ignore the thought of haggis, although I love scotch.


    1. Actually, I posted this poem to the Ravens’ Facebook page, but it was taken down within a few minutes – I guess they don’t let fans post comments. I figured it was more of a nod to Baltimore than to Boston (‘m not sure that Poe’s ‘other’ city would appreciate that!).


  9. I love the juxtaposition of so many divergent elements here – only a poet can weave them all together in such a brilliantly-astounding manner enough to make haggis sound really interesting. I’d probably be a little adventurous and taste it at least once in my lifetime. 🙂


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