Screen shot 2009-11-26 at 12.30.16 PM

“Could it be then that the muse isn’t Greek after all? That Mt. Parnassus is really St. Peter’s?” asks Bruce Guernsey in the most recent issue of Dappled Things .


Guernsey, a practicing poet who is former editor of the Spoon River Poetry Review  and has taught creative writing at Eastern Illinois University for twenty-five years, describes himself as a “lapsed Catholic.”


Guernsey first began to see hints of a certain Catholic sensibility in the poetry of one of his students. “There were no obvious references to the Pope or Holy Communion, but the writing had a certain kind of sensibility . . . ” This “deeply imbedded Catholic sensibility arose spectre-like again and again . . . ”


For Guernsey, the very writing of poetry is Catholic. The freedom within structure:
I can be most anybody in a poem . . .  But the patterning and shaping, the writing in syllables, in sounds—these I can’t get away from. The rise and fall of the priest’s chanting, the repetitions of prayer, the standing, the kneeling, the sitting down: going to Church was a physical experience, visceral and enduring.

And the very words of the liturgy and the sacraments are poetry:
“My last confession was a week ago,” its perfect iambic pentameter a subtle mnemonic device, like a line from Shakespeare, the rise and fall of the beating heart, mine then in my spondaic throat.

The imagery, memory, colors, the smells, the Latin he inhaled like incense: “Buried below the troubled institution of the Church lie archetypes as deeply human as those of the crib.”

“Although I haven’t been to Mass regularly in years,” he says, “my senses remain tuned to its sounds and symbols when I read a poem or when I try to write one.”—to which his readers respond, “Come back. We’ll wait for you.” “Agreed. Come back. You get it more than most who never left.”

Find some of Bruce Guernsey’s own poetry here . His own Catholic sensibility is much more explicit in poems like ” The Letter X ” and “ The Apple ” (also featured on NPR) and more subtle in “ Maps .”

blog comments powered by Disqus