Poetry | May 10, 2012

Poems included in this feature:

  • Stone Arabia
  • A Servant’s Prayer [Poem of the Week June 11, 2012]
  • Sand Shark
  • Opening the Hive
  • Prayer for a Journey by Sea
  • Cat Lying in the Grass

Meet the Author:

Two of the poems here are in the form of prayers. A couple of years ago, while visiting my family in Wisconsin, I came across an old Lutheran prayer book, written in German and published in St. Louis in 1876. The book was small, meant to be carried in a pocket or reticule and consulted during times of need. The prayers are notably specific: prayer to be said before setting off on a journey by sea, prayer to be said in the first hour of a deathbed watch, prayer for a birthday, prayer to be said during a time of drought. I found these pleas addressing mostly harrowing circumstances to be psychologically compelling. By begging for the attention of an all-knowing, distant father, they seemed to me an interesting model for poems, but quickly my own versions took on new and contemporary contexts.

I began writing these poems some time ago, and resisted showing them to anyone or sending them out to journals. I felt embarrassed to be writing poems with religious underpinnings, and, as queer agnostic, I felt exposed. Of all the poems I have written, these—mostly devoid of autobiographical detail—are the most personal.

The other poems here have animals as their subjects. Having grown up on a farm and having been around various domestic and wild animals my whole life, I developed a particular aversion to the sentimentalization of animal life and the morally specious mistake of equating animal deaths to those of humans. The relationship between domestic animal species and humans is long, complex, intertwined. They are, quite literally, a part of our biological makeup, and we owe our survival as a species to them—and they owe theirs to us. The poems are my way of thinking about some of these complexities.

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