Such Was My Prayer

Such was my prayer. And she, so far away,
Or so it seemed, looked down at me and smiled;
Then to Eternal Light she turned once more.
-Paradiso 31.91-93, Dante

Such was my prayer – she so far away –
And yet so near – as night shifts to day –
My hands outstretched as I implored, explored
Her smile, what it might mean, from where she soared
So far above me: to look induced vertigo
Along with loss, for there I could not go;
Yet had she turned to me, and turned to smile,
That hope wimpling across her face the while;
But then … but then, having deigned to turn,
She turned once more to stare and doing, burn.

And as she did, within herself lit more,
Renewed her radiance, just knelt before
God opening light behind wood’s opaque door.


In Telling This Story

In telling this story I am awake:
Before I slept but in the myth there is
Something, some such power – I weep – for whose sake
All is endured: this living crisis.

In telling this story I am alive:
Before, like one dead and deadened to bliss,
Like one – truly – who has embraced the grave;
And now the narrative that will not miss.

In telling this story I am transformed:
Before a bubble, bloated on a pond
Of slime, an accident, unlikely, spawned;
Yet glory – see! – art fashioned and in hand.

In telling this story I am a god:
Before I felt so human, puny, frail,
As if somehow inside so bad, no good;
But now a joy beyond that cannot fail.


James Sale, FRSA is a leading expert on motivation, and the creator and licensor of Motivational Maps worldwide. James has been writing poetry for over 40 years and has seven collections of poems published, including most recently, Inside the Whale, his metaphor for being in hospital and surviving cancer, which afflicted him in 2011. He can be found at and contacted at james@motivational He is the winner of Second Prize in the Society’s 2015 Competition.

NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here.

8 Responses

  1. John Toivonen

    I like how telling the story results in transformation. I believe that the act of writing is an attempt to turn the writer into some type of demi-god or hero. I saw that you published a book entitled Inside the Whale. I suspect that you have read it, but if you are not familiar with the essay, read “Inside the Whale” by George Orwell. It is a critique of the world view of Henry Miller.

    • James Sale

      Thank you John – you are right about the transformation, and indeed, as a young Eng Lit student for exams in England when I was 19 I did study Orwell’s Inside the Whale. I am of the view that Orwell was no poet, but that his Fable, Animal Farm, still remains the greatest satire on politics of the C20th – sh sharp, so to the point!

  2. John Kolyav

    The endurance required for living in this world is enormous. When reading the poem together with the bio-data I think the poet faced a precarious life. However, the will to face hardships help him to write. Good poetry. Regards!

  3. James Sale

    Thank you John – yes, life is a challenge – and in that is the fantastic opportunity that we get and which I feel enormous gratitude for. As GK Chesterton put: ‘gratitude: the highest form of thought’.

  4. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Thinking more about and getting to know James Sale’s work yields many rewards. “Such Was My Prayer” is all I mean by the Ars Poetica Nova. It is the perfect type of poem, representative of both the new scholarship and new versification. The new scholarship which honors the very best models of the past through loving and meticulous apprenticeship (the first condition of the Ars Poetica Nova), if not the simple richness of the poet’s personal culture, and the new versification that crafts with exquisite care an opening into the world of highest truth, just where, as in this case, we find ourselves reconnecting with Dante’s essential character. This is the new direction. Modernism is low and horizontal. The Ars Poetica Nova spans all dimensions but privileges the vertical. “Such Was My Prayer” typifies the elevation, the rarefied loftiness of the Nouvelle Poesie. For this reason, I find Mr. Sale’s poem not only gorgeous andmemorable, but exciting as well. If Mr. Sale remained in this space alone (where he is evidently quite comfortable and at home), our Anglo-American poetry would live anew.

    • James Sale

      Thank you so much Joseph for your comments, especially the words ‘live anew’, which mean so much to me, as so many of my poems are exactly about that topic – living anew in the spiritual depths of life. This is encouragement indeed. I ought also to say for readers of these pages that it may appear – since I have just had published an extremely positive review of your 77 Sonnets – that it may seem as if we are in some mutual admiration society or back-slapping club: you like my work and so I’ll like yours! But for the record, so people are clear, I have never met you, and only encountered your work through SCP. I immediately saw how powerful and significant your poetry is. If you like my poetry that is good too, but it would not affect my reviewing of your work – and I’d like to think, your reviewing of mine. At the end of the day we have to stand on our integrity regarding the discipline that we – and other readers of SCP – love and stand for. Indeed, the fact that people like us are drawn together – and others too on SCP – is highly likely; and if friendships occur, then that too is highly likely, for the obvious reason that there is or are massive values that we share, as well as a profound sense of purpose: to reintroduce the beauty of poetry to the English language – or however we wish to express that. It would be pretty awful if sharing this ambition all those sharing it were fighting like cats and dogs – for a house divided cannot stand. So thank you again – your support is truly appreciated.

      • Joseph Charles MacKenzie

        The members of an école have every right to enjoy each other’s work. The public is invited to enjoy their correspondences. This is part of the vibrancy of all major paradigm shifts in the history of letters. The illustrious members of the Hôtel de Rambouillet, and two centuries later those of the Hôtel Lambert, communicated with each other more in public than in private. The letters of the Romantiques were published in everywhere. the epistolary novel enjoyed a resurgence as a result. Poets are said to constitute a brotherhood. The withered old cliques of the academic establishment were incestuous in their mutual support of each other’s mediocrity. Why should not honest men of learning be vocal in their support of true genius? Modernism lies rotting in its grave of shallowness. We are the poets of the new age whose rules are governed by literary, as opposed to political values. We invite the public to share in our excitement.

      • James Sale

        Wow – well said!!! OK – I am with you! Like Odysseus, let’s leave the wreck of Troy to find our way home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.