Sunday, January 21, 2007


Now that I chauffeur Mom wherever, I am back to going to church. Fortunately, our local minister Amy Beth delivers non-boring sermons.

Today, she was talking about how she lacks facility in learning new languages but loves languages -- sounds like me. And Amy Beth noted that what we typically hear in English as Biblical gospel is translated from Hebrew and, as with other translations, may fail to aptly present the original.

And a significant translation error relates to the story of Job -- how, at the end of the story of all of the tribulations wreaked upon Job, according to much English gospel, Job pronounced to God "I am wretched before You..." before receiving God's blessing. Apparently, in the Hebrew, the original version is that Job pronounced, "You are still wretched to me..." before receiving God's blessing.

Humongous difference, yah? That Job does say God is wretched and yet that such doesn't prevent God from blessing him...

And the (mis)translation of "You" to "I" is apparently (memory is sketchy here so don't hold me to it) partly due to how Hebrew is a "reflexive" language; there is no "I" but only he, she and you. If I got that right, that would make sense to me...

...and it would make sense specifically as regards to poetics. There really is no "I" in a poem, even when the word is presented. The poem is address -- it breathes into being when its "you" (the reader) exists.

Relatedly, and in Methodism in particular with its historically activist nature, to hear (whether it's to read or listen to) the Gospel is not for the recipient to simply receive it. The recipient of the Gospel, by hearing it, is supposed to act on it.

By such Methodist Poetics, if you will, the phrase "poetry activism" can belabor the point -- the two need not be split. Not if Poetry is active vs passive. You need not just write it or read it. Poetry can be a way of life.

So the dialogue of accessible vs inaccessible language might really be an amateur's debate. Poetry is a way of life -- and in this lies its most extreme difficulty. And Grace.