In part one I dealt with poets who are well known to editors and anthologists and who thus stand a good chance of being read and commented upon in important places. There are other poets who may be familiar names in religious circles but are completely unknown to the poetic opinion-makers. They constitute a kind of poetic underground so far as recognition by the poetic establishment is concerned. These poets are often published by small presses whose output is rarely reviewed. A number of them merit discovery by the arbiters of poetic fashion.
The poets of the Christian underground are not equally successful. To make a point I cite the first eight lines of a sonnet, “Hill Difficulty,” by Lucile Brandt (The Flame Tree, Brethren Press, 1973):
Hard was the going, and the way was steep
Up the long hill o’er which the pathway led
And I, a pilgrim, weary, sore bestead,
Scarce in the rough and narrow path could keep
My feet, oft slipping.
What is going on in this poem? First of all, one notices the basic symbol, a journey, which was used successfully by T. S. Eliot in “Journey of the Magi,” has been used by countless other poets, and is still usable. So the poet has a natural symbol to express a spiritual journey. So far, so good. Then why is the poem not the equal of Eliot’s? Mainly, because it reads as though the poet were so intent on the message that the “poem” is rather mechanically superimposed. Note, for instance, the use of archaic words to fit the meter or give a rhyme: o’er, sore bestead, oft. The rhythm (iambic pentameter) becomes a mechanical tyrant, forcing the poet to pad out the lines or use awkward word order. Most of all, the poem lacks any fresh, vivid, specific imagery ...1
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