Poetry Corner

by Arthur Mampel

Walter Brueggemann in his excellent book, Finally Comes The Poet speaks about the danger of muteness in our society. Brueggemann says, “Moses and Israel had learned that muteness leads to brick quotas” (p. 55).

I have seen the recent movie, Amazing Grace, twice in the past two weeks. It is the story of William Wilberforce, who together with his friend William Pitt, successfully struck a blow against slavery in the early nineteenth century. It is a jarring movie that depicts the injustice and oppression of the African people, who were brought to England in slave ships for the purpose of cheap labor.

In David Hawkinson’s sermon at the Bruce Carlson’s Memorial Service he boomed fourth the words of the 150th Psalm, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!”

Again, Walter Brueggemann writes: “Praise is an act of poetry! It is only this poetry that will crack the muteness and let life begin again.” Bruce Carlson carried a poem around in his billfold by Rainer Marie Rilke. It speaks to Brueggemann’s contention that praise is an act of poetry:

Tell us Poet what you do? ‘I praise!’
But those dark, deadly devastating ways,
How do you bear them, suffer them? ‘I praise!’
And the Nameless, beyond guess or gaze
How do you call it, conjure it? ‘I praise!’
And whence your right in every kind of mask,
In every maze to remain true? ‘I praise!’
And that the mildest and wildest know you
Like star or storm? ‘Because I praise!’

Brueggemann continues:

The gospel is thus truth widely held, but a truth greatly reduced. It is a truth that has been flattened, trivialized, and rendered inane….To address the issue of truth greatly reduced requires us to be poets that speak against a prose world. By prose I refer to a world that is organized in settled formulae, so that even pastoral prayers and loved letters sound like memos….Finally comes the poet. The work of the poet is to permit a fresh conversation among those who are too modern, too buoyant, too desperate, too obedient.

It is gratifying that several poems from our readers have been sent to us for this issue. I wish space could allow for all of them to be printed, but, alas, that is not possible. But be assured that all of the poems sent to the Pietisten will be read carefully and thoughtfully.