Issue 7.2 Contributor’s Notes
7.2 is almost ready to ship, so here are some glimpses into the issue. Subscribers will have it in hand by the end of the month. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now is the time!
Here is what two of our poets have to say about their work, and the role of belief or faith in their poems.
Sean Thomas Dougherty
In my poems I often attempt to negotiate the space between I and Otherness, whether that space is physical or spiritual. I was profoundly changed years ago when I read philosopher Emmanuel Levinas: “God must reside in the face of the other.” But that distance can be rivers wide, and sometimes the broken bridges are inside us. Too often the daily obligations of living get in the way, and so, as Lucille Clifton says, we must embrace joy in the face of despair or ugliness. In my poem “Sulfur,” a collage poem about my working class town (Erie, PA), I ask directly,
How can we ignore the ugliness to embrace the unexpected? To erase
the black ink of bitterness.
When we stop seeing, we stop being writers. We stop being human in the best sense of the word. And sometimes we need to re-imagine the world in new and holy ways. The poem “Giant Steps for Patricia Smith” attempts to do this. The poem began simply and absurdly with my friend who posted on Facebook of all things that she had arrived to teach one sleepy day wearing two different shoes. Since Patricia Smith is a poetry icon I imagined this unintentional style statement becoming a jumpstart for something nearing a revolution. Finally my poem “Please Forward” is an attempt at pure lyricism, the place in poetry where perhaps we get closer to speaking beyond ourselves. The place where I dissolves into language in an attempt to return home to the You, the Thou, the great Beloved.
I’ve experienced some of my most deeply spiritual moments while wandering through art museums. When I encountered the Audubon painting Entrapped Otter at Milwaukee Art Museum, I immediately thought of Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Here is an animal surely at the threshold of death but not capitulating without a “holy rage,” a visceral fight for survival. As Paul reminds us throughout his letters, we believers don’t always fight by instinct. We often give in too easily to despair. I found the trapped otter to be a fitting example of the spiritual fighter I want to be: one who remains ignited by God despite the coming clouds.
Lydia from Acts has always fascinated me (enough to name my first daughter after her). While we don’t know much about her, we know she was a business woman who undoubtedly had a lot going for her financially. Still, she opened herself to Paul’s message and acted on her faith immediately by inviting other believers to fellowship in her home. In “Lydia, Dealer in Purple Cloth,” I explore the themes of value and sacrifice, imagining that Lydia knew quite a bit about what it takes to make something—whether a cloak or a soul—an object of invaluable beauty.