On “A Poet’s Confession”

The cause of his suffering is that he always wants to be religious and always goes the wrong way about it and remains a poet: consequently he is unhappily in love with God.


What is the difference between a religious and a poet?  Faith.  The faith of the religious and the faith of a poet are different.  From the religious’ point of view, the poet lacks faith, where he is a poet.  But from the poet’s point of view, the religious, even a failed religious, possess faith of a kind he hopes someday to possess.  However, the poet isn’t willing to give up his freedom to possess it.  He believes there is another way to it, that is, through poetry.

To be religious, one must become empty, and then, once empty, the world becomes full.  The poet, on the other hand, becomes full through poetry, and the consequence is an empty world.  This doesn’t answer the bigger question, of course, which is: who is right? if right means closer to the truth.

The poet can’t seem to make the leap necessary because it would mean loving not what the religious loves, but loving the emptiness he witnesses and surrendering the fullness he has become to it.  If he is unhappy, it is because his fullness can’t sustain him indefinitely and that emptiness threatens to overwhelm what he knows of himself now.

The poet’s one freedom, then, what he declines to surrender, is autonomy.  He can choose to be unhappy and full.  He can choose to resist, as long as possible, the god who would have him as empty as the rest of the world.  Or he can surrender utterly and lose what he has fought so hard to gain.


Place, where you can, a handful
of seeds, where birds can see them,
where everyone who wants to, who needs to,
can feed; place, under every naked bush
and tree, a little cone of love,
as if your coming were a pilgrimage, a prayer,
as if your coming there were celebration,
a fact in a textbook underscored
because the teacher said so.  No,
it isn’t better to give everything away.
It’s better not to have to, not to own,
but have your nouns end in apostrophes
as if what comes after belonged
only to God, her word or its synonym.

This entry was posted in Choosings & Leavings and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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