Monday, April 11, 2011

Scott Cairns

Scott Cairns is the author of six poetry collections — the most recent being his new and selected poems, Compass of Affection (Paraclete Press). His poems have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, Image and Poetry. He has taught at several universities, and is currently Director of Creative Writing at University of Missouri.

Cairns has long believed that poetry should be more than merely a record of something that has previously happened, but that it needs to be something of significance in itself. In discussing positive changes that have occurred within the art of poetry, Scott Cairns said in Image just over a decade ago, “The new poetry, a poetry which employs language as agency and power rather than merely as name for another and prior thing, demands that it be read and re-read, and poked, and puzzled over as an event of its own. The poem is not about a thing; it is a thing.”

The following poem is from his 1998 collection, Recovered Body.

The More Earnest Prayer of Christ

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly…
----------------------------------— Luke 22:44

His last prayer in the garden began, as most
of his prayers began–in earnest, certainly,
but not without distraction, an habitual…what?

Distance? Well, yes, a sort of distance, or a mute
remove from the genuine distress he witnessed
in the endlessly grasping hands of multitudes

and, often enough, in his own embarrassing
circle of intimates. Even now, he could see
these where they slept, sprawled upon their robes or wrapped

among the arching olive trees. Still, something new,
unlikely, uncanny was commencing as he spoke.
As the divine in him contracted to an ache,

a throbbing in the throat, his vision blurred, his voice
grew thick and unfamiliar; his prayer–just before
it fell to silence–became uniquely earnest.

And in that moment–perhaps because it was so
new–he saw something, had his first taste of what
he would become, first pure taste of the body, and the blood.

(Posted with permission of the poet)

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Scott Cairns: second post, third post, fourth 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: