July 5, 2009


Who is this Holy Spirit,
And what is He doing in the eggplant?

I hope you find work here that claps its hands, like the mountains of the Psalms, work that sings a new song unto the Lord, in bass as well as in higher registers. It's ardently Catholic stuff, sacramental, via the spirituality of the Servant of God Catherine Doherty-a spirituality which I gathered, mostly through osmosis, as I found myself returning again and again to Madonna House in Canada, from my mid-twenties to my mid-thirties, usually for about two months at a time. They fed me, they prayed with me. Their "hospitality of the heart" changed my life, and I am in their debt.

The poetry herein moves basically from joyful little dythrambs in praise of the Trinity to a poetry which more directly involves the intellect. From one perspective it's a process which seems to reverse the usual monastic route: from meditation to contemplation. But those early poems were happy because there was infused Joy. I hadn't known the Holy Spirit mattered or existed really, and so that became the message. Later on I found and still find myself searching through the darkness of faith, with joy still, yes, but with soberness too because, after all, salvation is a tenuous thing, a pure gift. And since I have this gift for screwing things up, I personally need to meditate intensely and often, to fall on my face on a hourly basis.

Fiction? Well, I did it because I teach it, though one critic reviewed THE CHEESES STANDS ALONE as poetry. (The Sewanee Writers Conference actually liked the prose better than the poetry, so go figure.)

Along with an extraordinary friend, Janet McCann, I've edited three anthologies of Christian poetry. In a way, these are a different kettle of fish. They are an attempt, at least on my part, to offer the general secular poetry-reading audience something of the Truth--who Jesus is. The goal was and is not to present a lot of bad pietistic poetry. (The Kilmer 50's had done that decades before.) No, we've been after the best poetry we could find, and often that has not been glowingly orthodox. But I figure why not cull those voices and allow these fence-sitting poets to read the orthodox poems too. As Peter Maurin one said, the truth alone should attract. May it be so.

I'd like to leave you a comment of Leonard Trawick's, the long-time co-editor for the Cleveland State University Poetry Center, the folks who published "Pentecost."

"You know that poem really wouldn't have worked with any other vegetable."