Saturday, June 28, 2014

Discussion of Jonathon Penny's Prologue to the Temple Poem

We discuss the final finalist in this year's Mormon Lit Blitz. Join the discussion, catch up on any of the twelve you may have missed, and go back to the Mormon Artist blog on Monday to vote for this year's Grand Prize Winner

When I was growing up, there were certain stories my father would tell us only in the winter. In the summer or fall we could beg and beg, but he would always tell us we had to wait for the first snow to fall on the ground. 

I loved those stories. And I learned to love my father, in part, by waiting for them and then by trying to guard his voice and the images it evoked in my mind for the rest of the year. 

In a number of different religions, there are stories and poems and names that are only spoken in certain times or places. Words you wait for, long for, guard in your heart and your mind through all the other seasons of your life. 

In our faith, we build temples around those words. And we love those temples with an almost passionate intensity. 

At the same time, though, we live in a culture where most people believe in discussing everything openly. When you can turn on the TV in the middle of the night and hear two people talking at once while written words scroll endlessly under their faces. So it's hard for many people to understand why we don't talk directly about the things we love, why we approach our temples only carefully, sideways, allusively. 

Jonathon takes careful, sideways, allusive words and builds a poem around the temple with them. 

And I feel like Jacob at Beth-el when I enter them. 

I don't know what to ask you about this poem. 

What lines stand out to you, perhaps? 

What does it mean to be a poet in a religious world where some words and ideas carry so much weight? 

What might a Mormon poet contribute to the range of human expression in the internet age? 


  1. Well, I know one of the finalists I'm voting for now. Great stuff!

  2. Merrijane says,

    "While this poem contains many allusions to temple worship, the parts that really strike me are accessible to anyone. To me, this is a poem about wrestling with one's belief, to the strengthening of that belief. The contradictions and strugglings are so beautifully echoed in the language. Try reading it out loud. It's just fantastic."

  3. I have enough thoughts about this piece that I was hesitant to try and capture them in a comment of "acceptable" length, but there were also a few lines that were completely lost on me (which is typically the case with me and poetry). My favorite verse, though, was the second one:
    This Gospel hits me where I breathe:
    It roils the very blood of me;
    seasons the very meat and meal
    and sets the organs ill at ease.

    I also love poems that have form and rhyme but aren't in-your-face about it. Very nice work.

  4. Thanks, everybody. Glad it resonated.



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