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Writing your identity


I have only in recent years thought about writing poetry that identifies me as a Mormon. I always stayed away from writing about anything religious. I don’t really know why, except maybe it was too hard to express without sounding trite, especially with my limited writing experience. Or maybe because I hadn’t come to terms yet with my identity as a Mormon. Well, I still don’t know if I have come to terms with that identity, or if I ever will. But I am learning to appreciate certain parts of the Mormon culture that brought me up. And so, I am embarking on writing about it–and have a certain enthusiasm pulling me in that direction. What I would like to know is how you Mormon writers out there started writing about your Mormon-ness, if you do. Did you always incorporate it, and if not, what made you decide to?

This poem was probably my first that dealt with anything Mormon, though you wouldn’t know it except that I’m telling you. I was trying to write something about the Holy Ghost. Feel free to question, comment, or criticize.

The Big Calm

Is like having the privilege of catching the bird
that sits in my artificial tree outside the glass door.
This is the one that’s been making

all those deep-throated, light-noted chortles
at 3 am when I wake and usually
go right back to sleep.

And having caught him with my eye
through the glass I see his effort
put into sound–

much more muscle movement and strain
proportionately and passionately
than an opera singer puts into her aria–

shaking his entire tiny frame
and his notes
no longer feel the same,

this is the perception of something still small:
I know truth.
And I go back to sleep.

And a bird,
real this time,
knocks on the glass door.

Brooke

I am a children’s librarian. I have 2 kids. I have a professor for a husband. I obsess about writing and about making things.

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  1. Rebecca says:

    I’m no poet or very well read in it, but I enjoyed the imagery.

    Where does the picture come from btw – it’s great!

  2. Brooke says:

    Thanks, Rebecca.

    I found the art on this website:
    http://www.bulgaria.com/art/artists/vnenkov/index.html

  3. Deborah says:

    brookewill:

    This post makes me think of the tension between the terms “Mormon Artist” and “Artist that happens to be Mormon.” Do you ever think about this distinction?

    A poetry professor at BU once said to me, “Mormon poets tend to write for a Mormon audience. But it’s easy to be lazy in language if you are writing for your own. What great Mormon poet is going to make their mark in the literary world?”

    Religious poetry at its worst dresses the ineffable in tired cliches — at its best, though, it provides a window into how “spirit” works (or doesn’t) for the poet, redefining tired expressions. I felt the latter taking place in your poem.

    P.S.
    I was also moved by the poem Holly posted this morning

    Finally, I’m a fan of this “poet who happens to be Mormon”

  4. Brooke says:

    Deborah,

    Thanks for making that distinction. I appreciate what the professor said. I am realizing as time goes on how difficult it is to write poetry and how lazy I am as a writer. Especially since making art that is accessible to all audiences but is still distinctly or uniquely Mormon, I think, would be the most difficult.

    p.s. I really liked Holly’s poem too. And I’ll be checking out Neil Aitken’s poetry soon. Thanks!

  5. jana says:

    This poem of Neil’s is a favorite of mine: http://lone-crow.com/Poetry/p_burials.html

    It feeds my fascination/repulsion with death images and stories.

    I also have a ‘thing’ about bird images (like what you’ve written in your blog recently, Brooke, and in this poem). I think my attraction to them is part Emily Dickinson, part Terry Tempest Williams, part Susan Glaspell, part Maya Angelou. Why is is that women writers speak so often of birds? Any thoughts?

  6. Téa says:

    I think that birds provide great imagery in writing for many reasons.
    They live in so many places, birds make a nearly universal symbol compared to other creatures.
    Flight, in all of its majesty, connects our souls to freedom and power as we contemplate soaring through the skies.
    Contrastly, when flying is taken away from a bird (for whatever reason), it resonates with those who mourn lost opportunities, lost mobility & function, lost loved ones.

    Another thought is that as birds are frequently considered as both fragile and powerful, women may be more drawn to them as reflective images.