Last spring we launched a series with poets whose work we love and want to feature and will continue it moving forward.
Our next poet is Marjorie Maddox, whose work focuses on the intersection of body and spirit. You can hear Marjorie reading her poem “Prayer” below and read more about the connections she makes between poetry and the sacred.
And the Topic for Today Is Environmentalism . . . .
Teaching “God’s Grandeur”
More politically correct than divine grandeur,
it too flames out in this small Pennsylvania town
where fracking hijacks the headlines. Good reason
and good enough to bring the state students trodding
heavily into a poem piled high with God and earth,
with “responsibilities” they hear each morning
as the gas industry trucks rattle past our windows,
their tired drivers knowing nothing
of iambic pentameter or sestets but much
about food on the table, a steady job.
The freshmen, eager now,
blurt out dilemma, paradox, instress—
and all those other new-sounding ideas
suddenly connected to their lives,
their parents, the sonnet
they think was written last week,
even with its 19th century,
sound-packed syllables they don’t get
until slowing down, thinking.
And so, after playing with light, foil, sound;
the way trade “sears,” “blears,” and “smears”;
and how and why shoes separate us from ground,
we detour to Genesis, Cat Stevens, and a heavy metal rendition
that almost drowns out Hopkins with bass.
All this before rounding the terrain-raked bend
to solution, which is what—they are surprised to discover—
we all most want: the eloquent octet, the bright wings,
the ah! that opens the mind to talk
at long last, about the holy.
Previously published in True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series and Illumination Book Award Medalist)
Themes of Her Work
I write poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature and address such diverse topics as baseball, my father’s unsuccessful heart transplant, art, identity, living in an unsafe world, and the writing and teaching of literature. And yet—because faith is a central component of who I am—much of my work focuses on the intersection of body and spirit.
In my current book project, Seeing Things, I address memory within several parent/child relationships, including the beginning stages of my mother’s dementia and my daughter’s health issues. The manuscript also examines the ways we distort or preserve memory, define or alter reality, see or don’t see those around us. I look forward to learning—through poetry and God’s grace—what I will discover along the way.
Rocking Chair Hymn
And praise be this chair
with its waltz of the heart
that dips with the breeze
and the lilt of the lark.
And praise the pulse there
in the stretch of the limbs
in both person and tree
as we two-step with Him
in the motion of nature,
the beat we breathe in,
the rhythm of earth,
the dance and the hymn.
from True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series and winner of the Illumination Book Award)
Poetry and the Sacred
In the dizzying spinning of our lives, poetry has the ability to lead us—as T. S. Eliot might say—to “the still point of the turning world,” that place of quiet contemplation where the natural and spiritual often intersect. Although I would not equate prayer with poetry, the two share the need for sustained pause and meditation, a slowing down of our hectic lifestyles, an openness to discovery, and a desire for communion with the Divine. “Be still and know” is also true with poetry. Here, if you listen, you may hear the voice of God.
You also will hear the cries, laughter, and struggles of those like and unlike yourself. This, too, is the work of poetry: empathy and epiphany. The process of writing and reading allows us to better understand this world and the next. Poetry connects the local and universal, the mundane and the miraculous. It gives us those ears to hear and eyes to see that we might, then, head back into the turning world sustained, nourished, and willing to learn more. And will this not lead us to the Sacred? Yes, I say. Yes.
the small circle of face
we see by
in light of wine
the sliver of why
that bends the bones
the orbed cross
bright in the palm
of the poor
the crucified moon
on the night of tongue
To sip is to sing the Amen
into veins, sweeten
the soured tongue.
But first: lips
pursed with it,
hollowed mouth brimming
This is the swallowing
of what spewed out: spears
stuck long in the side,
thorns thick in the skin.
torrent down the throat.
previously published in Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize; reissued 2018 Wipf and Stock)
About Marjorie Maddox
Winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize, Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA), and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series; Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); children’s books; Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence (assistant editor); and 550+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. She gives readings and workshops around the country. Please see MarjorieMaddox.com
Dreaming of Stones
Christine Valters Paintner‘s new collection of poems Dreaming of Stones has just been published by Paraclete Press.
The poems in Dreaming of Stones are about what endures: hope and desire, changing seasons, wild places, love, and the wisdom of mystics. Inspired by the poet’s time living in Ireland these readings invite you into deeper ways of seeing the world. They have an incantational quality. Drawing on her commitment as a Benedictine oblate, the poems arise out of a practice of sitting in silence and lectio divina, in which life becomes the holy text.