Archive for June 5, 2012

A God in the House

I worked retail for many years and one thing that my bosses and my mother agreed on was what was “appropriate” for conversation and what wasn’t.  Talking about the weather was safe.  Talking about religion and/or politics was not.  I think about that advice for some reason when I read poetry.  I don’t know why. I don’t believe we should avoid politics in poetry.  I also don’t believe we should avoid religion.

A God in the House: Poets Talk About Faith edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler is a book, obviously, that does not avoid religion.  In this collection, the editors bring together 19 contemporary American poets to talk about spirituality and/or religion and the act of writing. 

In one of the essays, Gerald Stern notes that “Poets — maybe all artists — get away from their own religious upbringing in order to arrive at a condition of faith.” Indeed, his words are echoed in many different ways as a variety of poets explore religion and spirituality in their own lives.  For instance, G.C. Waldrep discusses his time with an Amish community while Gregory Orr places his relationship with religion in the context of family tragedy.  Other poets include Fanny Howe, Annie Finch, Li-Young Lee, and Dunya Mikhail.  My favorite essay is  “The Possibility of God” by Jericho Brown, where the poet talks about his struggle with his religious background, his family and his personal life, while still ending up believing: “I love God. I love liberty. I shame one if I lose the other.  I think of God now as way more patient than I could ever be.  I have to believe that God is better than me and better than all of us. That’s the only thing that could make God God.”

This is a collection that does not pass judgement, nor do any writers believe that one religion or path of spirituality is “better” than another.  The essays are non-academic in nature, and in general, are must reads for anyone interested in how contemporary poets explore spirituality in both personal and writing lives. 

A God in the House is published by Tupelo Press.  Take a look here for more information.