Skip to main content

Idiot Psalms: new poems by Scott Cairns

Idiot Psalms: New Poems

Idiot Psalms: new poems by Scott Cairns

Glimpsing the nature of religion poetically is a calling that Scott Cairns has taken up with vim and vigor.  In his new book of poems, Idiot Psalms, he seeks to capture the weight of a psalmist and the feeling of the congregant in his midst.  These poems evoke a playful seriousness that keeps the reader coming back for more, or in my case, coming back to read the same poem over and over again.  Cairns enters into the natural world of lightning and thunder as well as the perplexing study of theology in his poems, combining the natural with the supernatural which enlivens the imagination of its readers.
Two poems had their red laser pointers on me as I read through this wonderful collection.  In First Storm and Thereafter, Cairns writes clearly about the lighting and thunder.
                                ‘What I notice first within
                                                This rough scene fixed
                                in memory is the rare
                                                quality of its lightning, as if
                                those bolts were clipped
                                                from a comic book, pasted
                                on low cloud, or fashioned
                                                with cardboard, daubed
                                with gilt, then hung overhead
                                                on wire and fine hooks.’ (14)

The juxtaposition of a rough scene that is fixed in memory had my attention at once.  The rough scene due to the memory’s emotional cadences of light from the sky and the moaning of the thunder was apparent.  And yet, the scene was fixed in memory due to the rarity of the quality of its lightning.  Like the rare quality of a Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card, this type of memory is almost unbelievable.  Scott describes the lightning as bolts from a comic book, daubed with gilt, as if the radiance of their appearance is so vivid as from another world.  The many storms after this enigmatic one fall to the floor in comparison.  Cairns paints the beauty of the natural world here with brush strokes infused with a comedic spirit.

In his poem And Why Theology?, Cairns dives into the depths of the theologians scalpel while illuminating the disturbing mysteries he produces on the page. 
“Theology is a distinctly rare, a puzzling
                                study, given that its practitioners are happiest when the terms
                                of their discovery fall well short of their projected point; this
                                is where they likely glimpse their proof.  Rare as well
                                is the theologian’s primary stipulation that all that is explicable
                                is somewhat less than interesting.” (17)

Cairns points to the inescapable fact that theologians often bite off more than they can chew, digest, and translate to the reader.  Yet, it is in this grasping for a discovery of the truth that mystery remains.  If we could have mastery over the truth of God’s Word and world, would there be any reason to write of such things?  The answer for the great thinkers and philosophers of God would be nay.  And, this, for Cairns, leads us back to the point, can theology and its minions of truth bear to hold God together like a master artist beholds a canvas?  The subject is not only more expansive than initially thought, but designed to capture one’s attention always.

These poems are a delight to your eyes. I know you won’t be remiss in reading these confounding words.

Thanks to Paraclete Press for the copy of this book in exchange for review.


Popular posts from this blog

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder
Misperceptions, misconnections, and missed observations are just some of the issues that Timothy Snyder raises in his book, Black Earth, concerning the Holocaust.  Snyder, no stranger to the frontlines of scholarship on the Holocaust, with his previous book Bloodlands, that concerns the land from Hitler to Stalin, takes a look at the Holocaust from new sources and new avenues of thought.  How did some nation-states survive relatively unscathed from Nazi persecution while others, notably Jewish populations, succumb to a wave of killings?  Also, what was the role of the Soviet Union in the war and how did Stalin effect changes in the Final Solution?  These questions are only two of the many that Snyder answers in his detailed account of the Holocaust.
One of the best chapters was entitled The Auschwitz Paradox.  Generally when the public thinks about the Holocaust, we think of Auschwitz first or at the top of our mental m…

the great spiritual migration

The Great Spiritual Migration by Brian D McLaren

Brian McLaren and his own pithy way brings to the foreground and emphasis on a new kind of Christianity. The kind of faith that Brian envisions is a kind of migration not been set in the bedrock of beliefs that is unmoving but rather shifting with both culture and with faith. His new book the great spiritual migration is exactly that, a pointed work that encapsulates a vision towards the future where Christianity is changing and its peoples lives are changed as well.

Brian states in the introduction, "but we also know that for a lot of people Christianity is malfunctioning, seriously so, and it's not pretty. This kind of frustration with conventional Christianity is what McLaren gets gets to at the heart of this message is concerned with a number of different clusters unbelief. One, namely that Christianity has been stuck in a set of propositions or beliefs that has controlled churches in the faith, rather then a spirit of love t…

My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes.: A Journey Through Loss with Art and Color

My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes by Roger Hutchison

Taking a look at the digital copy of this book allowed me to look at the striking art inside the book, and its connection to the words of the page that were focusing on loss.  Looking at the physical copy of the book even brings to life more the staggering similarity that the words and pain have together on the page.  The focus here is how certain colors express the sentiments of those who have lost a loved one.  I did not think that I would relate too well to this book until two days ago, as we lost our little boy, who was only 17 weeks old.  The pain is palpable and yet the pages of this book give me good reason to think of my son with a sense of pride and hope.

Roger writes, "You are a shooting star. Your light trails across the heavens.  I blinked and you were gone."  We were full of anticipation at the first and second ultrasounds, and there was the picture of our little boy Jackson, his developing face and little …