Weekly Poem #1

I realise that choosing to do anything on a regular basis on a blog is a dangerous thing. Nevertheless, I think this would be fun–to reinstate what, back in the days of the Randomness e-thoughtletter, used to called “Random Poems,” but now, rather than once a month, once a week.

Ambitious, I know.

All of us are shaped by the world with which we interact. Who we are, what we think, how we live come about through the books we read, the people we meet, the things we do, the things that are done to us and around us, the movies we watch, the tv shows we watch, the poems we read, the poems we write, the people we converse with, the people who love us, the people who hate us, the people who seem never able to talk with us but only at us, the talks we hear, the sermons we hear, the lectures we take notes through, the music we listen to.

As John Michael Talbot notes in The Music of Creation, we have an I who endures through all of this (to use Christian theological language, this I is my spirit, pneuma). This I, the intrinsic Matthewness of me, through reason, reflection, emotion, gut reaction, and — this happens to all of us on occasion — mindless acceptance, interacts with the various stimuli that pass by. Thus, my worldview, how I think, what I believe, as well as how I live my live, is not just accident, it is not just me being subjugated to the world around me, but is constructed by my very self, which is, to an extent, an unchanging phenomenon — were I to be reduced to a state where I lost most of not all of my memories, both long- and short-term, I would still be myself.

As far as my thought processes go, I interact with what comes at me in different ways. Sometimes, I come to my beliefs “negatively”, that is, through forcing myself to think through why a belief is not true. Sometimes, I relent in an argument and accept that I was wrong. At other times, I come to a new idea or belief that is not contrary to anything I had ever heard but, rather, complements and even bolsters the others (at these times I delight). And sometimes I simply have what I already believe affirmed and strengthened. To borrow from Miroslav Volf on this concept:

I do not reject exclusion because of a contingent preference for a certain kind of society, say the one in which people are ‘able to work out their private salvations, create their private self-images, reweave their webs of belief and desire in the light of whatever new people and books they happen to encounter.’ . . . I reject exclusion because the prophets, evangelists, and prophets tell me that this is a wrong way to treat human beings, any human being, anywhere, and I am persuaded to have good reasons to believe them. (Exclusion and Embrace, p. 68)

That is to say, while some things I believe and live by are arbitrary, such as the redemptive value of bacon in its relation to breakfast, others most assuredly are not, and my worldview is informed by a biblical Christian mindset that itself has strong reasons to be trusted (but that’s an entirely different issue).

In literary terms, what I believe and how I write are moulded by the books, articles, and poems I read. And since blogging is, to a degree, laying forth my brain to be observed and mocked/admired/judged/ignored by all, I shall proceed to lay before you some of the poems I like. I like different poems for different reasons. Different poems have shaped me in different ways. Nevertheless, I shall leave the poems before you for a while before I dare comment upon them at all.

Leaving the poems untouched by me, though, leaves them open for you. I don’t want you trying to find out “why Matthew likes a poem.” I am not so egotistical to think that you care about me and my thinking that much. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t mind if you were to comment about the poems yourselves. What do you think about said poem? Do you like it? Why? Why not? What merit does it have, literary or otherwise? Does it thrill you with delight? Does it lie dead on the screen before you? Is it one of your favourite poems too? This is an invitation for us to interact through these wiry webs, digital bits of whatnot, and fibre-optic cables. I do hope you’ll accept it.

So, the first (although the hymns I’ve posted as well as the final choral ode from Seneca’s Oedipus may actually count as precursors themselves) Weekly Poem:


‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.-Lewis Carroll


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