I usually enjoy the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, the yearly gathering of scholars in religious studies and theology. But this year I found it a slog. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of the meeting or of my own personal ambivalence about the very project. But the drone of papers occasioned in me a kind of ennui I’ve not experienced there before (the book exhibit was a bit of a tonic). In fact, during one very-long paper I was so bored and disheartened that I took up poetic doodling. I hope this was only a phase, or the bad fish talking–otherwise, I’ve got serious professional issues on the horizon!
A poem inspired by a theological presentation at AAR:
Babel’s babbling and confusion
comes home to roost in
the many gurgling tongues of the
with an idolatrous cleverness.
Serious and sober,
but really just a DJ–
riffing and mixing,
generating a cacaphony of theologemes
that dance and dangle
between piled names.
A show of erudition,
gesticulating about ‘communicative action’
For which I give thanks.
For never has the vocation–
or is it just my desire?–
of the poet felt more clear.
For I am befuddled by this Babel,
foreign tongues of barbarians.
From its rambling , “rigorous” confusion
I want only to fall into the
clarity of Franz Wright,
the lucidity of Anne Sexton,
the bumpkin simplicity of young Donald Hall.
Compared with the muffled but incessant
utterances of the theologian,
poetry rings with the clarity of
crunchy leaves in the quiet of a
frost-covered autumn morning.
God, of course, is no theologian.
He is a poet hidden and violated,
muzzled by the theologians.
As long as there are theologians,
God’s existence will remain in question.
How long, O Lord?
When O When will you silence the theologians–
Silence my theologizing–
And sing to us, your poiema,
in the poems of your strange saints.