Monday, June 18, 2012

Paul Mariani*

Paul Mariani writes in the mode of American confessional poets, as exemplified by John Berryman, and Robert Lowell. This style fits well with his Catholic faith, although it also proclaims his own short-comings. He’s a skilled story-teller, quick to share how he neglected his dog on the day he was dying (“Landscape with Dog”), how in anger with his sons he made a fool of himself (“Sarcophagus”), or of a youthful, drunken fight the night before writing his Ethics exam (“Manhattan”). Such extreme self-revelation and honesty, also gives Mariani the right to express the deepest truths of his own spiritual life.

He has just released his seventh poetry collection, as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books, entitled Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected and Revised Poems. As the subtitle states, it harvests the best from his extensive body of poetry, fine tunes it, and adds a selection of strong new poems that can proudly stand alongside the earlier work. He has taken great pains for this volume to improve poetry that has already been highly acclaimed. I am honoured to have been able to serve as editor for this excellent project.

Mariani’s first collection Timing Devices (1979) featured engravings by visual artist Barry Moser; their relationship, both personally and professionally, has continued through the years. Moser has generously contributed powerful engravings for Epitaphs for the Journey. It is available from Wipf & Stock.

The Stone Not Cut by Hand
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Nebuchadnezzar stared while the prophet blazed.
A stone not cut, stormed Daniel, by any human hand,
however self-assured or self-deluded. Understand:
It is the Lord has quarried here. The king’s eyes glazed,

because all he knew was earthly power: kings who razed
entire cities—dogs, women, babies, mules, the very land.
Kings whose subjects, high & low, did their each command.
A stone not quarried by any hand but God’s. Amazed,

the king fell back before the prophet’s words. A stone
that would smash each self-important, self-made idol,
whether built of gold or steel or any other thing their throne
was made of. Yes, whatever insane, grand mal, suicidal
impulse kings could conjure up. A stone by God alone.
Womb-warm, lamb-gentle, world-wielding, tidal.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Paul Mariani: first post, third post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: