Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Confessions of a Middling Poet


Some days,
When the gray tide of world-weariness
Sweeps into the harbor of my heart,
I wish I could be Homer, Tennyson,
      Virgil, Donne, or Keats—
One of those walking wonders
Whose words reworked the rhythms
      Of a million readers’ lives,
Who had men of verse making
      Solemn genuflection at their feet,
And whose names became the idols
      Of those who lived thereafter.
But I’m not.
      And I won’t be.
Firstly, I suspect,
      Because I’m just not good enough.
When God’s appointed Muse
      Kindled up a love of poesy
            Amid the fibers and the weave
                  Of my discordant heart,
It fell tangled ‘mid the surplus
      Of my insecurity and sloth,
And there, held back by cords that kept it far
      From discipline and submission
            To correction from more lucid eyes,
It attained but just a poor-wrought genius,
      Lying in talent within the mass
            Of flightsome mediocrity,
                  But in desire, of vaulted skies.
Secondly, my poems
      Are too long,
            Too keen on arcane words,
                  And too particular to my own condition
To be of deep enjoyment to anybody else
      (Case in point, see this poem).
Not only so,
      My poems tend not to be
            Jarring, dismal, or tortured enough
                  To speak the literary language
                        Of a bleak postmodern age.
When they speak of angst,
      It’s the angst of my own broken soul
            And not the shadowy dreariness of the world,
Because, quite frankly,
      I’m the reason the world is broken,
            But not the reason that it’s beautiful.
Thus will my poems make sorrow over sin,
      And rejoice over creation,
            And that’s as it should be,
                  Whether postmoderns know it or not.
Thirdly, I suspect
      That it would not be good for my soul
            To be successful as a poet,
                  And thus the good Lord spares me this.
Help me, help me, O Poet of Eternal Grace,
      To delight in the craft before me,
            Whether it renders forth my words
                  To be clumsy or sublime,
And if my poems might assist
      Some troubled soul, then use them there,
            But not for slaking the undying thirst
                  Of my much-deluded vanity.
Thank you for my middling gifts,
      Enough to charm and oft to please
            A few close family and friends;
And let my poetry never be
      A temptation to idolatry,
            No, far from it:
Let my verse paint gold-leafed icons,
      Holy windows to Thy love,
And not the limited occlusion
      Of greatly-hailed masterpieces
            That ring with words of lyric bliss
                  But draw not our gazes unto Thee.

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