Monday, December 9, 2013

Eric Pankey

Eric Pankey’s first book of poems For The New Year (Atheneum) was selected by Mark Strand to receive the 1984 Walt Whitman Award. Since then he has authored eight more poetry collections, the most-recent of which is Trace (Milkweed Editions). Formerly he was on the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, and is now professor of English at George Mason University in Washington.

In the poem "Prayer" from his new collection, he compares faith to a "hardwood forest which burns and grows again". In a recent interview, available on the Milkweed website, Pankey said, "I always imagined that one day my faith would be solid and certain, a kind of bedrock upon which one might build a sturdy foundation. But an 'ebb and flow' has been my experience of faith...One does not believe or have faith, but one is on a faith journey...I find myself free to be full of questions, full of doubt. The doubt, I hope, is part of the way toward faith."

The following poem is from his book Apocrypha. (Knopf, 1991)

On Christmas
The Reason

To clarify and allow
For abundance, for revery.

To be permitted clemency,
A first, if not a second chance,

A taste, a glimpse, the sleight-of-hand
Of miracles and the obvious.

To see sky, gray and pearl, the jay
Blue in the copper beech, milkweed

Seed stalled in the haze, the wooden
Stairs cracked and sagging, and below

A zinc pail tipped over and spilling
A round pool that reflects the sky.

To take what is closest at hand
And set a story in motion.

Not to make something from nothing,
But, as at Cana, to be moved,

Even unwillingly, by need.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.