Monday, July 17, 2023

Martha Serpas*

Martha Serpas is a poet from Southeast Louisiana, and is the author of four poetry collections, most recently, Double Effect (2020, Louisiana State University Press). She is a Professor of English at University of Houston, and has taught at Yale Divinity School and the University of Tampa. In addition to this, since 2006 she has worked as a trauma chaplain at Tampa General Hospital. All of this means she divides her time between Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.

She said in a 2022 interview with Nadia Colburn, “I don't think I would have become a poet without the emphasis on the sensory aspects of reaching the Divine” which she found growing up in the Catholic church.

LSU Press says that, “Martha Serpas’s Double Effect reimagines a principle first outlined by St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica, which considers whether an action is morally permissible if it causes harm while bringing about a good result.”

The following poem, which relates to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, is from Yale University’s Reflections.

Poem Found

New Orleans, September 2005

…And God said, “Let there be a dome
in the midst of the waters” and into the dome God put
the poor, the addicts, the blind, and the
oppressed. God put the unsightly sick and the
crying young
into the dome and the dry land did not appear.
And God allowed those who favored
born in God’s image to take dominion over
the dome and everything that creeped within it
and made them to walk to and fro above it
in their jumbo planes and in their copy rooms
and in their conference halls. And then
God brooded over the dome and its multitudes
and God saw God’s own likeness in the shattered
tiles and the sweltering heat and the polluted
God saw everything and chose to make it very
good. God held the dome up to the light
like an open locket and in every manner
called the others to look inside and those who
rested on that day and those who didn’t
went to and fro and walked up and down
the marsh until the loosened silt gave way
to a void, and darkness covered the faces with deep sleep.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Martha Serpas: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.