UNRESOLVED STRUGGLE

As I said at the time, to a poetry journal editor …

My guess is that intentionally or not, most of the pieces you select have a religious – usually, but not always, Christian – word or image. The unresolved struggle between the flesh (often scatological) and the divine (however naively informed) provides the energy fueling the engine that runs this thing with some unity.

I happen to believe that a radical encounter with Christ can harmonize the essential flesh/spirit dilemma, but that’s another sermon. For now, let me say how powerful your image of Christ in a wheelchair is; for me, there is the Jesus who has healed the cripple, and now sits in the chair for a rest, as well as the Jesus who struggles in the chair to know precisely what the handicapped experience. Or, as I teach the junior high and senior high kids in religious education at our meeting for worship, there is an agnostic/atheist strand even in the Bible: “How do I know you are really God and not just some pile of wood or gold?” (See I Kings 18:22-40; some translations are much more graphic and mocking than others.)

Put another way, I believe that authentic religion leads straight into everyday issues, the muddy realities. As I look again at this batch of poems I’ve selected for submission, I am amazed at the number of religious references! Unintentional, I assure you.

Here’s hoping these creations swim boldly in your current.

And remember: Just say Duma Luma!

Happy trails and shiny rails …

~*~

Motets 1

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THUGS AND FUDGING

The human mind keeps trying so hard to impute meaning where there’s obviously none.

Consider how many poems attempt to be philosophical essays or at least musings with some anticipated moral in conclusion of an underlying physical experience – while others just dance. In music, at least the kind free for lyrics, we have constructions intended to lead to some fresh vision (aka, meaning), however wordless the encounter. This can involve the variation of organ manuals, stops and registration – or on the piano, the pedal, octave leaps, or dynamic range – all absent in the literary line (though they may be suggested by synonyms or subtle variations in the repetitions) … much less chords in their vertical shifting and twisting horizontal lines of harmony.

What are we thinking as the music flows past? Or more accurately, feeling? The shuffling of the deck of cards we play. (Thugs & fudging we encounter in the marketplace or street, countered by aesthetic awareness.)

While so much of poetry (especially) is visual, the overlap — and distance — from music remain active.

This time, in my newest collection, I blend them, looking for what’s timeless and distilled … as in stilled … and yet vibrating.

~*~

Preludes 1For more on my poetry collection and others, click here.

TWISTING WORDS INTO MUSICAL CHORDS

Is it possible for a single piece of writing to pile up simultaneous sounds or notes like a chord in music rather than running continuously onward like a melody?

That’s the challenge I face in the “fugues” part of my newest collection of poetry.

Unlike music, writing deals in thoughts and images rather than abstract pitches.

Here’s what I get.

Preludes 1~*~

For more on my poetry collection and others, click here.

MOTETS AND PSALMS

Years ago, considering some of my theological writings, a friend suggested I allow a stretch of my poems to directly address God. It was a proposal I have long resisted, in part because such works fall far from what is generally acceptable in the field of contemporary poetry, in part because of the low state of what I find in most present-day religious literary endeavors, and in large part because of the intrinsic hazards in the exercise of composing in that field itself. (How easily one becomes self-righteous or bombastic, or slides over into generalizations rather than imagery, or, especially, begins preaching – no matter how much that mode has been the mainstream of English poetry.)

Still, I have found some of my poems kept drifting over into this unfashionable circle, awaiting some sense of collection.

To call these motets is an homage to my longstanding love of a cappella Renaissance music, an embrace of its settings of standardized ecclesiastical Latin texts. But to voice the faith and practice I know also asks pointedly what would function as updated lyrics, with or without music. Certainly not Latin, except for an archaic effect. Not that I have any fluency there or in Greek or Hebrew, which could likewise be invoked. Concurrently, I had also recognized how sharply some of the biblical Psalms skirt blasphemy and psychological despair in their confessions of religious experience. Strikingly, by the Baroque period, the two converge once Psalms prevail as motet texts.

At last, I returned to sets of written answers I had composed over the years in response to an old Quaker exercise known as Addressing the Queries. I cherish a spirituality that encourages questioning, and the monthly sets of queries do just that, first as the answers focus on individuals and then as a religious community. (Surprisingly, none of the queries ask what we believe, but all demand we examine what we do – in all facets of our lives.) This time, I turned the dialogue away from the circle itself and instead to the Holy One directly. Since the responses arise in a period when I knew Friends who continued the Old Ways, I cast the poems in the Plain Speech of thee/thou/thy/thine when addressing second-person singular, and you/your/yours for second-person plural (the “you all” of Southern colloquial speech). This, then, is an homage to an archaic language, too.

Along the way, I also rediscover my love of Rumi and the poets of the bhakti Hindu vacanas.

I am left considering that what Jesus expresses as the Father, may as readily be what we envision as the Holy Spirit – the Comforter promised in the gospel of John (14:16, 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7).

Motets 1

~*~

For more on my poetry collection and others, click here.

PLAYING THE PARTITAS

Originally a collection of renaissance and baroque-era dance tunes, “partita” brings to mind music for a solo instrument – harpsichord or violin, especially. While paying homage to Bach and other historic masters, my intention in this set of poems was not to somehow mimic their strict key signatures and rules of variations but rather to invoke their spirit and flights of fancy as they might extend to our own times. Possibly even our own range of instruments, too – jazz trumpet, electric bass (yes, I’ve heard Bach played there), or country dance fiddles.

Partitas 1

~*~

For more on my poetry collection and others, click here.

SHARING THE EXPERIENCES, HOWEVER INCOMPLETELY

Admittedly, many of my recent poetry releases in my Thistle/Flinch collections have an unfinished feel to them. There’s a kind of field notes quality jotted down while crossing unfamiliar terrain.  Yes, they’ve been revised and compressed over the years, but I’ve taken them as far as I can, for now. Maybe someday I’ll further distill a few of them, but I’m happy to have what I have to date. They are a record of important experiences in my life. If any of them resonate with you, all the better.

As for Woodpecker? Well, we’re in the midst of it now.