New Here?
     
Posts tagged "Poetry"


The Like Button – Mary Karr

From Tropic of Squalor, the latest collection of poems by former Mockingbird conference speaker Mary Karr.

The Like Button

Back in the before time
those days of amber
desire was an inner
and often ugly thing.
And if we wanted,
my brothers and hungry
sisters, we were oft flung
far from each other. Think
tin-cans-and-string far,
plum-colored-smoke-signal
far. No web wove the pinpoints
of ourselves into a map. No
upward thumb could be pressed
to say yes or its detractor: no.
Soon, we may each evolve
a glow button maybe mid brow,
so as we pass each other we can vote
praise or scorn to light up yay
or nay on a passing stranger’s face
a thumb. At first the young celebs
with asses you can serve drinks off
will rack up zillions of votes
till we tire of such bodacious butts,
and then the smart, the brave,
the strong will take their turns,
but what if we start to like,
say, the stout, the schlubby
neighbor raking leaves or that
subway sleeper who’s woven
yellow crime scene tape into
a jock strap—Police Line: Do
Not Cross—till all the undeodorized,
the unloved all their lives, start to feel
their foreheads blip
and blip as it becomes hip
to love the oddest, the most
perilously lonely. Imagine
the forever dispossessed
transforming as they feel the thumb
of yes impress itself
into the very flesh.

Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Naming the Impasse: Amos Niven Wilder and the Religious Imagination

Over the past eight years or so, Mockingbird contributors have said quite a lot about the works of Thornton Niven Wilder. His contributions to the idea of a theo-poetic approach to the Gospel, i.e., an approach that avoids didacticism by employing literary archetypes to illustrate gospel themes, are well documented on this site. For a couple of examples, read this from Wilder himself, or this from Paul Zahl. Wilder’s Angel that Troubled the Waters is a tour de force in such terms, and it illustrates what this site is usually trying to do: use an oblique approach to get in past the heart’s defenses, because a didactic frontal…

Read More > > >

Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

1. Where to start with a hierarchy of most severe ‘little-l law’ in ‘secular’ society? We could start with body image, health, having cool experiences, and the like, but prosperity honestly takes the cake. And among the people who have already checked that box, it’s fast becoming political correctness. Political correctness is important, but its ascendant, uncompromising severity and occasional use as a class-code leads to a totalization which is, to say the least, in tension with the traditional (L/l)iberal ideal of discourse. Cue Camille Paglia, who had some fantastic things to say in America Magazine (Jesuits) about the backslide of feminism and…

Read More > > >

Who but the Lord? – Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’ poem, “Who but the Lord?”–though explicitly written about and within a period of deep racial unrest in America and the fight for civil rights for African Americans–seems to strike a profound metaphorical chord within the theological discussion of the role of the law and the intense suffering, lament and doubt inhabiting the area between the work of the law and the beginning of grace.

lI looked and I saw
That man they call the Law.
He was coming
Down the street at me!
I had visions in my head
Of being laid out cold and dead,
Or else murdered
By the third degree.

I said, O, Lord, if you can,

Save me from that man!

Don’t let him make a pulp out of me!

But the Lord he was not quick.
The Law raised up his stick
And beat the living hell
Out of me!

Now, I do not understand
Why God don’t protect a man
From police brutality.
Being poor and black,
I’ve no weapon to strike back
So who but the Lord
Can protect me?

We’ll see.

Court of Grace

Some astounding verse from my good friend Hank Wall, Esquire from Columbia, SC…

Court of Grace

A court of grace would have no laws, but brim with broken hearts,

and flowing there, on stoney ground, would run a crimson tide,

a tide of love, a tide of tears, in thanks for sacrifice,

and flowing from the open doors, this tide would be poured out…

a river of new, unending healing balm, forgiving every doubt…

awash in answer to His prayers, His mercies, inside-out.

Language as Empathy: Compassion and the Grace of Expression

Language as Empathy: Compassion and the Grace of Expression

Over at The American Scholar, acclaimed poet Christian Wiman wrote an essay, entitled “Mortify Our Wolves“, on his sickness with cancer and the dynamics of loss more generally – from the perspective of a preternaturally articulate Christian and sufferer. For those interested in language, empathy, pastoral care, or just about anything else in the world, it’s more than worth reading (unless you have an aversion to the occasional swear-word). We’ll hit a few high points here but again, reading it in entirety is highly recommended, ht MS:

There comes a moan to the cancer clinic. There comes a sound so low…

Read More > > >

Mama Liked the Roses (And So Did T.S. Eliot): Deciphering "Burnt Norton" - Part 2

Mama Liked the Roses (And So Did T.S. Eliot): Deciphering “Burnt Norton” – Part 2

Have you ever wanted to reclaim the past? In images, especially those of poetry, we possess a moment frozen in time. It seems so accessible the more detailed and the more sensuous a description we give it—such as Eliot’s ghostly trip into the rose-garden last week—and yet the permanence which it suggests is devastatingly illusory.

In one of Kurt Vonnegut’s descriptions of aliens, the Tralfamadorians from Slaughterhouse-five compare the human experience of linear time to being strapped down on a moving train, without being able to turn one’s head right or left, and having to look through a small hole at…

Read More > > >

Mama Liked the Roses (And So Did T.S. Eliot): Deciphering "Burnt Norton" - Part 1

Mama Liked the Roses (And So Did T.S. Eliot): Deciphering “Burnt Norton” – Part 1

Eliot’s Four Quartets remain among his most critically acclaimed and notoriously inscrutable works. Although there’s no established consensus on the precise meaning of these poems, they’ve all been viewed as meditations on time, each focusing on a particular aspect of this central reality of human life. Constantly going back to the Quartets and always enjoying them, this summer I’ve taken it upon myself to try and tease out some of the questions and ideas Eliot develops. Feel free to comment with other takes on the poem.

In “Burnt Norton,” Eliot struggles with the contingency of the past: there was a genuinely…

Read More > > >

The Battered Heart of Sanctification: The Poetry of John Donne

The Battered Heart of Sanctification: The Poetry of John Donne

John Donne’s poetry and sermons speak to the deepest part of the distraught sole. His own struggles and passion take on life and, especially, take on life within the reader. Through his poems, the reader, “meet[s] a turbulent soul, grieving over his sins, questions his faith, pondering his mortality, wrestling with God, striving for humility–and in the end soaring with thankfulness and praise”. While some scholars argue that Donne merely shifted his youthful desire for women to a mature desire for God, others have argued that Donne’s poetry is incarnational. Donne’s relationship with God was heart-centered rather than mind-centered. Every…

Read More > > >

The Law and The Gospel

The Law and The Gospel

“The Law and The Gospel” is a beautiful poem by the Scottish Divine Ralph Erskine (1685-1752). I have not read anything else he has written, but I found this poem conveys clearly and beautifully the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel.

The law supposing I have all, Does ever for perfection call;
The gospel suits my total want, And all the law can seek does grant.

The law could promise life to me, If my obedience perfect be;
But grace does promise life upon My Lord’s obedience alone.

The law says, Do, and life you’ll win; But grace says, Live, for all is…

Read More > > >