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Fool’s Wisdom

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made” —Psalm 139:14

I am amazed at what some fools believe
Who say I am a fool to have belief
In a creative force. To preconceive
Against this possibility is chief
Among the many errors of our age.
For what takes faith? That life somehow began
As slime in a primordial soup? The sage
Would differ; wisdom clearly sees a plan,
Design, intent, and logic; every cell
Tells us the workings of a greater mind,
An artist to acknowledge seemly well
If we but ponder, look, and seek, and find.

Such handiwork abundantly displayed:
So fearfully, so wonderfully made.

.

.

If I Could Access

If I could access musicality
And thus create a different kind of art
(Such writing as should set a work apart),
I then would have the perfect poetry.

If I could use the gift of melody
To make my writing intone from the heart,
And I could create rhythm, counterpart
To blending words in verbal harmony,

Then I would have a work that truly sings,
With song-like quality, and with a voice
With which I could be happy, and rejoice
That poems can rise above mere common things.

For I’d be satisfied: my mind-heart girds
My writing to make music from my words.

.

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I Straddle Worlds

I straddle worlds of possibility,
Between what is not, and what can become;
Across the great divide of what is free
And what is thus constrained by form. At one
With both the fluid, flowing verse which tries
To speak to matters of the heart, and yet
Respecting the conventions which comprise
Through history what we should not forget:
Of structure making wise the commonplace,
And making ordinary the sublime,
And ordering every word with special grace,
And raising verse beyond the realms of time.

I choose to write in ways that come to me:
The Muse’s myriad means in poetry.

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Theresa Rodriguez is the author of Jesus and Eros: Sonnets, Poems and Songs, Longer Thoughts, which has just been released by Shanti Arts, and Sonnets, a collection of sixty-five sonnets which has also just been released by Shanti Arts. Her work has appeared in such journals and publications as in the Wilderness House Literary Review, the Midwest Poetry Review, Leaf  Magazine, Spindrift, the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry, Mezzo Cammin, The Scarlet Leaf Review, The Epoch Times, and the Society of Classical Poets.  Her website is www.bardsinger.com.


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27 Responses

  1. Anna J. Arredondo

    Theresa,

    I only skimmed over your second and third sonnets in my haste to say “Amen!” to the first. How delightful to find so eloquently expressed something I have often marveled at myself.

    I also appreciate your choice of scripture. You could just as easily have quoted “the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no god.'” But in your selection I see, not an alienating jibe at the fools who think themselves wise, but an invitation to come to one’s senses and marvel along with you at the fearfully and wonderfully made handiwork that surrounds us. Very well done!

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you, Anna, for your kind comments, and for seeing my intent in the first sonnet. I did not want to alienate people, as you said, by using Psalm 14:1 in the epigraph, but instead focusing on the mysteries inherent in Psalm 139:14. I think I gave a strong enough rebuke in the poem itself!

      Reply
  2. Margaret Coats

    The second and third sonnets are a little more difficult than the first–although like the first, they set up contrasts that ask to be solved. “If I Could Access” poses “if music, then poetry,” but the solution is to turn the logic around, using the poet’s material of writing and words to make music. Likewise with freedom and form in “I Straddle Worlds.” The answer here (the Muse’s myriad means) is not so simple; we have to read back from the couplet to gather suggestions of how these means can work. I think in particular of wisdom poetry, in which the commonplace (common sense, perhaps?) is revealed as wise through structure (line 9). And at first, the sublime becoming ordinary (line 10) does not seem like a worthwhile accomplishment–unless “ordinary” means “available” through order to someone who is ordinary until affected by the sublime. These poems are good because they demand some tough thinking!

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you very much, Margaret, for your observations and reflections on the second two sonnets. In line 10 of “I straddle worlds,” I did mean “making the ordinary into something sublime” through the use of order and structure in formal poetry. I am very glad the poems demand tough thinking, I wasn’t expecting that they would!

      Reply
  3. benjamen grinberg

    I agree with Margaret that the second and thirds sonnets need some tough thinking, and that’s a good thing.

    Fool’s wisdom, at first the title struck me as if I’m the fool and my wisdom is nothing but that of a fool. That wisdom being belief in order. When in fact everything seems so chaotic. So I was at once the fool being spoken of as well as the fool that the fool says is one.

    The second poem really made me stop for I have recently been writing poems using music. I will strum some chords and this clears my mind to let the words that otherwise i couldn’t come up with come from a tongue untied by the effect of making and hearing music.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you very much, Benjamen, for your observations on the first two sonnets. I was referring tacitly to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 18 and 19: “If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.”

      I am very glad that you are using music as a creative tool for your poetry!

      Reply
  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    These are lovely, Teresa. I have also been conscious, for many years, of wanting my words to sing, and have even written about a few specific pieces of music. And, as to “Fool’s Wisdom”, Amen!

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you very much, Cynthia, for your kind comments. I hope we can both continue striving for the goal of making music in our poetry!

      Reply
  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    Well, the thing about “musicality” in poetry is that many forms (such as the sonnet or the various medieval French forms like the villanelle and rondeau) were in fact set to music, or were accompanied by music. Even the Homeric epics were originally sung. In ancient societies, where the vast majority of persons were illiterate, such singing and recitation happened as a matter of course.

    Much poetry, however, has been composed simply to exist on the written or printed page, and the “musicality” that it has is created by verbal artifice — choice of words, syntactical arrangement, tropes and figures, and rhyme schemes.

    Asa general rule, a poem that is meant to be sung aloud generally needs to be more straightforward, clearer, and unambiguous than a poem that gets involved in complexities of thought or argument. In short, it needs to be openly “lyrical,” in that word’s original sense. A poem that goes into more intellectual expression (like Rodriguez’s second and third here) can’t really be lyrical. And this is true even if the poet uses what was originally a “song” format, such as the sonnet. Consider Shakespeare, who uses the sonnet form to express some very complex and intricate arguments. You’d never dream of singing 129 (the “Lust Sonnet”) aloud.

    You can, of course, always find exceptions.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you, Dr. Salemi, for your interesting and educational comments and observations. You always provide so much food for thought!

      Reply
  6. James Sale

    I am in reading Theresa Rodriguez’s poetry reminded of Karl Shapiro’s remark: “In poetry, as elsewhere, the loose, casual manner, the cult of informality, is simply incapable of expressing what is inwardly most precious to us.” What we see in these poems, especially perhaps I Straddle Worlds, is the rejection of informality and that striving for structure that enables the most ‘precious’ things, which are inward, to become manifest. To do this, of course, is to do what Apollo does: which is write poetry and heal oneself at the same time. For clearly, Theresa is wrestling with her own soul, and this is what is so fascinating for us, the readers.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you, James, for your comments and interesting observations. It’s true: I am wrestling with my own soul, but like Jacob, I am wrestling with God also!

      Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Theresa – These are three very beautiful sonnets and I find it difficult to choose the best. I can only say that you make a wonderful job of doing what you exhort from and for all of us, of “…ordering every word with special grace, / And raising verse beyond the realms of time.” And my remarks are not common to these three little verses alone of your works that I have read, but common to all. When I have contemplated the content of some of these poems after a slow reading I have felt a kind of peace and I have occasionally felt something numinous in the following silence. The third I like (I have made my mind up now – it comes a close second to your first!) particularly as an apologia for Intelligent Design which isn’t too heavy on the ontology and the metaphysics! All three poems admirably perform an operation that all great poetry (apart from comic verse that has its own rules) should do for us, which is to teleport us somewhere else, and as fast as possible.

      Reply
      • Theresa Rodriguez

        Thank you, Peter, so much for your compliments and perspective. It is wonderful to think that my poetry can “teleport” to somewhere else, what an exquisite thought! And to think that they cause you to feel peace, and something “numinous” is tremendously gratifying indeed! I’m smiling on the inside this morning!

  7. Andrew Benson Brown

    More fabulous installments, Theresa. The reference to ‘mind-heart’ in ‘If I Could Access’ reminds me of the Chinese philosophical concept of ‘xin,’ which is usually translated ‘heart-mind’ and, in the Confucian and Daoist traditions, refers to the socialization process. The Confucian philosopher Xunxi thought that people were born inherently evil, and needed to cultivate ‘xin’ in learning how to behave appropriately. One might say that in this context, Theresa, you are cultivating your ‘mind-heart’ to occupy the boundaries between music and verse—to the degree which this is possible, of course, given Dr. Salemi’s apt comments above on the fundamental differences between the two.

    Anyway, wasn’t sure if you were explicitly referring to this concept, or maybe a parallel one in Christian thought. I sometimes ‘read’ an allusion into a writer’s passage, and then I find out that I’ve been referencing some obscure thing and that they have no idea what I’m talking about.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you, Andrew, very much for your informative comments. In using the term “mind-heart,” I was trying to convey that writing poetry must, for me, be a combination process of employing both the mind and the heart, not just intellect alone, or just feelings/the soul alone. At least this is the goal to which I personally aspire!

      Reply
      • Andrew Benson Brown

        A goal in which you’ve succeeded, I’d say! Deep thinking, but never disengaging from the emotions.

  8. Andrew Benson Brown

    Technical question. Something I’ve been pondering recently is how to scan words that have two vowels in-between consonants (not sure about the specific linguistic term for this), and can be ambiguously read as having an extra stress. It seems that a word like ‘primordial’ in the seventh line of ‘Fool’s Wisdom’ can be pronounced either as PRAI MOR DEE UHL or PRAI MOR D’YALL. I think the ‘official’ dictionary way is the former, but in casual speech people tend to say the latter and avoid the ‘weakly strong’ stress of that final UHL. Another example I wrestle with is when encountering a word with double consonants followed by an ‘-ing’ ending, like ‘straddling,’ ‘battling,’ etc. In my own verse I tend to do what you did here, Theresa, and compress, but then sometimes I intend it to be read the other way, too. I’m guessing the correct answer to this question is, ‘context is everything’ and it depends on where the word is placed in the line. Was just curious as to others’ thoughts on this.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      I would have to defer to those more educated on the subject than I am, but I do hear the word “primordial” as “pri-MOR-dee-uhl”.

      Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      It’s the schwa thing again, as discussed previously in the comments on this site.

      Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      It’s the curse of some dictionaries to divide words up into discrete syllables, without making the slightest reference to the elisions, dropped schwas, assimilations, and diphthongs of actual speech. One consequence is that if a person is overly literalistic when consulting such a dictionary, he will attempt to alter his pronunciation to conform to a non-existent usage.

      In my own lifetime I have seen this happen in several cases, the most glaring being the pronunciation of “often.” The proper, traditional, and historically accurate pronunciation of the word is /awffin/. But because of dictionary-driven rules, a huge number of sheepish people say /OFT – ten/. The same is true for the word “forehead,” which should be pronounced /fahrrid/. But thousands say /FORE-head/. This is called “spelling pronunciation” by philologists, and it is a bad habit that has wrecked the proper pronunciation of many words and place-names.

      You’re right. Mr. Brown, about paired vowels that can be resolved into a “y” sound, or else pronounced separately, as in the word “primordial.” Whichever way works for the poet’s chosen meter or rhyme is fine. The same is true for “ruin,” “duel,” “social,” and countless others.

      Reply
  9. C.B. Anderson

    In the first sonnet, Theresa, you touch upon one of my favorite themes, namely the vacuity of philosophical materialism. Can you imagine how much faith in the non-existence of the spiritual world it must take to be an atheist? This goes beyond Pascal’s wager.

    The other two were equally evocative, though in different dimensions. Overall (and I could be wrong), I think that these three poems, compared to much of your previous work posted here, show a deepening of intellectual thought, while maintaining your connection to the feeling element that emanates from your soul. Thinking, feeling, willing: that’s all we’ve got inside us as human beings.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      I appreciate your comments very much, C.B. It’s interesting to me that you see a deepening of intellectual thought in these particular sonnets. I’m not sure how I manage to think what I am thinking at all, but I literally typed these sonnets with one finger on the Pages app on my phone at various points while watching my grandchildren! I’m not sure how I can get any clarity of thought while doing that but I have dubbed these (and several others I have recently written) my “Cell Phone Sonnets”!

      Reply
  10. James A. Tweedie

    Theresa, I’m late as usual with a comment`but I’ve spent some time pondering your three poems and have concluded that I find the Petrarchal structure of the second poem, “If I Could Access,” to be the most satisfying of the three. I love the straightforward logic that you have laid out in an almost mathematical or, dare I say it, musical precision with your “If I could . . .” “If I could . . .” “Then I would . . .” structure nicely wrapped up with your “For I’d be . . .” opening to your closing couplet. The poem may not have been “lyrical,” in the sense that Joseph explains, but it is most definitely “musical,” especially insofar as it is framed in a classical form that is as neat and tidy as the first movement of a Mozart piano sonata.

    Of the other two poems I enjoyed the reasoned thought and conversational vocabulary of the first which serves as an articulate apologetic in defense of a universe overflowing with wondrous beauty and meaningful purpose.

    Of the three, it was perhaps the third that I could possibly conceive as having been written letter by letter on a cell phone. The other two belie any sense of having been composed under such distracting, disjointed, and discontinuous circumstances as you describe.

    There is plenty of after-dinner conversational grist in each of these poems.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you, James, for your much-appreciated comments. I’m glad you found the second sonnet to be “musical”— that was my goal! And I’m glad the first serves as an apologetic for a belief in our Creator. And yes, all three were written with one finger on my cell phone, but nevertheless I am greatful that I have managed, as you say, to provide some “grist” to them nevertheless. I guess, somehow, I have had the ability to “hyper-focus” when in the midst of my other duties (a three-year old and an eight-year old can be distracting indeed)… but sometimes the Muse wants attention whether I am otherwise occupied, or not!

      Reply

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