Friday, March 27, 2015

A Peculiar People

When I think of Mormon poetry, I typically think of traditional poems that worship and praise God, such as those we find in our hymn books. These kinds of poems are safe and authors know that they will be accepted by the general Mormon/Christian audiences. Because of that assumption that I had formed, I was pleasantly surprised to find some poems that explored other topics, topics that are still Mormon in nature but are not discussed as openly among members of the Church.
My favorite poem from this section is entitled "The Excommunicate" by Danny Nelson. Nelson's sarcastic and bored tone fits his topic well as he paints the image of one going to church and being approached by the bishop and other members but not being able to connect to them on the same spiritual level. He uses a very strong diction (one that is full of anger, hunger, confusion) which well exemplifies the attitude of one who is falling away or has fallen away from the Church. The end of the poem quotes a beloved hymn: "Oh Savior, stay this night with me! Behold, tis even'tide." The quote from the hymn surprised me because the overall tone of the poem wasn't one of adoration. But when I went back and listened to the poem again, I heard the words of the hymn and of the poem as a pleading tone, a plea for help and guidance again even if the speaker didn't know that was what they were initially looking for.
Another poem that I enjoyed that followed this vein of untraditionalism was "Bless Our Tacky Chapel" by John Sterling Harris. This poem was a breath of fresh air as it described some unique characteristics of Mormons in a humorous manner, both for members and non-members alike. The poem started by briefly describing some aspects of our usual chapels (the crappy carpet and cheap fixtures), which would help any readers not accustomed to our churches understand the rest of the poem. Then Harris started listing off further descriptions of the most minute details of a chapel- the pulpit, the wood, the cords connecting the microphone and sound systems, etc. But he made it comical by placing the descriptions in the context of a prayer- "Bless the pulpit made of beech..." This made me think of prayers where people bless everything that they possibly can, no matter how small or silly they may seem. Then he ties it all together in the end by describing the "aluminum steeple" that "has no bell." When most people think of churches, they think of stain-glassed windows and bells calling the people to mass. Our churches, however, are as unique in regards to the outward structure as they are to the inward beliefs.
Overall, I enjoyed reading these poems and gaining new insight both to ways in which Mormon poetry can be written stylistically and how unique Mormonism is in itself. 

1 comment:

  1. I loved "The Excommunicate"!! The way you approached analyzing it was great. I really liked the other poem you talked about, too, it was easy to relate to and also to laugh about because there are totally prayers like that...even if we have been the ones to say them!