Mormon Poetry Now! Marie Brian, “Spindrift”

Series intro and Mormon Poets Roll

Wading through Segullah‘s archives some time ago, I found a poem that really caught me off guard: “Spindrift” by Marie Brian. The thing that struck me first about “Spindrift” is its (Emily) Dickinsonian style: seemingly random, mid-sentence capitalizations, the hyphens, the brevity. The tone, however, is considerably more hopeful, more reverent as the poet’s mind reaches through the sea spray, contemplating redemption, contemplating God.

The opening image, punctuated as it is by alliteration, is especially striking, setting the stage for the rest of the poem:

Harpooning—the Undoubtable
Shot from your sea-swept eyes,
Frothing mouths—
Bobbing, billowing
On the world’s flood tide (lines 1-5).

I take this Undoubtable stare of the sea to be the gaze of God shooting, harpoon-like, from the windswept waves. This “spindrift” (6) cuts to the marrow with its chilling mist, its clarifying ambiguity. Divine paradox this, that the “good news” (6) often comes to us most clearly, often catches us with its barb, in the moments when we’re wading (faithfully, perhaps) into the darkness of the unknown. I think of Lehi wandering through the mist of darkness before an angel parted the black veil and led him to the Tree of Life. I think of Boyd K. Packer’s commentary on “the leap of faith”: “the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two.” I think of the piercing insights that sometimes come through the disorder of sleep.

While these piercings may at times wound us, they also, I think, mark us (as we come unto Christ) as the fruits of His wounded body, leaving their imprint on the soul, a place where the “tissue thickens, binds / Fast-barnacled hooks / Of scarring Divine” (18-20) that tells us we’re God’s, that labels us heirs of His Being, of His Place. Maybe such Divine scars are part of what it means to have His image engraved upon our countenances.

Just maybe.

In addition to “Spindrift,” Brian has at least two other poems online: “Pangaea Lost“ and “Orisons.”

Happy reading.

Mormon Poetry Now!: Linda Sillitoe, “Encounter”

Series intro and Mormon Poets Roll

Note: I thought a post to honor Linda Sillitoe and her encounter with Mormon letters would provide a suitable launching point for the series. She passed away April 7, 2010. Exponent II has published a tribute for Sillitoe in their latest issue.

One of the most striking poems I’ve read recently is Linda Sillitoe’s unrhymed sonnet “Encounter” (link to PDF from Dialogue 35.1 []), which takes as its lyric province the intergenerational relationship between people, places, and possessions. The poet, born of goodly parents (at least it seems so from the pleasant cache of memories stirred in this sensory experience), begins by formally and lyrically binding this relational triad and expanding and deepening the connections between them from there. Continue reading “Mormon Poetry Now!: Linda Sillitoe, “Encounter””

Mormon Poetry Now!

Something Old, Something New, Something . . . Stolen

Since April 2009, as part of my (meager) commitment to raise the profile of Mormon poetry, I’ve been investing off and on in what I’ve called my Mormon Poetry Project, offering short readings of poems by Mormon poets on my personal blog. My ground rules: 1) the poets should be Latter-day Saints (of whatever stripe) and 2) the poems should be accessible online to provide my (meager) audience the chance to read for themselves and talk back with my interpretations, to the end—says the idealist in me—of sparking greater awareness of, interest in, and conversations about poetry by poets who are also Mormon.

Because I think these poets deserve exposure and because the traffic at my blog is a trickle—okay, maybe a slow drip—I’m giving those readings a new beginning (and in most cases, expansion and revisions) here at AMV under the series title “Mormon Poetry Now!” I’ll also be posting additional readings of poems (not included in the original list) and poetry reviews as I see fit. This introductory post will also serve as the new home of the Poets Roll: the list of poets, poems, and reviews I’ve posted so far.

Before I dive in, though, a note about the title: Twenty-five years ago, Dennis Clark, then poetry editor for Sunstone, began a four-part series for the magazine called “Mormon Poetry Now!” In his column published in four installments between June 1985 and August 1989 (1985, 1986, 1987, 1989), he set out, according to his purpose stated in the series opener, to survey “the state of the art of Mormon poetry,” to examine “the best of what Mormon poets [were] trying to publish” at the time. I’ve deliberately tied myself to these efforts to highlight the new Mormon poetry by stealing Clark’s title for my own and by following his example of close reading (though his readings are likely far more astute than mine promise to be). My hope is that migrating this ongoing project to AMV’s more fertile blogging grounds will reveal something of the varieties of Mormon poetic experience and open the way for our continued harvest of the field.

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Mormon Poets Roll

Marie Brian: “Spindrift”

Linda Sillitoe: “Encounter”