Poetry And Religion (by Les Murray)
Religions are poems. They concert
our daylight and dreaming mind, our
emotions, instinct, breath and native gesture
into the only whole thinking: poetry.
Nothing’s said till it’s dreamed out in words
and nothing’s true that figures in words only.
A poem, compared with an arrayed religion,
may be like a soldier’s one short marriage night
to die and live by. But that is a small religion.
Full religion is the large poem in loving repetition;
like any poem, it must be inexhaustible and complete
with turns where we ask Now why did the poet do that?
You can’t pray a lie, said Huckleberry Finn;
you can’t poe one either. It is the same mirror:
mobile, glancing, we call it poetry,
fixed centrally, we call it a religion,
and God is the poetry caught in any religion,
caught, not imprisoned. Caught as in a mirror
that he attracted, being in the world as poetry
is in the poem, a law against its closure.
There’ll always be religion around while there is poetry
or a lack of it. Both are given, and intermittent,
as the action of those birds – crested pigeon, rosella parrot -
who fly with wings shut, then beating, and again shut.
About the Poet: (be sure to read the poem first)
Les Murray was born to a dairy farm family in Australia in 1938. His mother died when he was 12 years-old. He was bullied with “a plethora of fat-names” as a child. He later married and had five children, one later diagnosed with autism which helped Les to realize he himself had mild autistic traits (Aspbergers).
Raise Free Presbyterian (with parents who hated Catholics), at 24 years old he married a Catholic woman and converted to Catholicism (which he had been entertaining for a while). He calls Catholicism “the best and only reliable Big Poem”.
At 58 years-old he suffered a three-weeks coma secondary to a liver abscess. Amazingly, after emerging from the come, he found his lifetime curse of depression (his “Black Dog”) had lifted.
Finally, from the Guardian: “Murray has been garlanded with prizes – TS Eliot (1996), Queen’s gold medal for poetry (1999) – and tipped for the Nobel, but he has often been cast, as much by himself as anyone else, as an outsider. His poetry, and more so his politics [he helped form the Australian Commonwealth Party], have married a reverence for bush wisdom with an instinctive distrust of metropolitan life in general, and what he sees as the received opinions of liberal elites about such issues as modernism and secularism in particular.”
My impressions & thoughts:
“Religion”, “God”, and “Poetry” are all words that stir hearts in different ways. Judging these words by strict definitions rarely reveals the complex, vibrant webs we’ve woven to support our lives.