Monday, May 13, 2024

Scott Cairns*

Scott Cairns is Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emeritus at University of Missouri, and is presently facilitating the transition of the Seattle Pacific University low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing to Whitworth University.

He is the author of ten poetry collections, the most recent of which is Lacunae (2023, Iron Pen/Paraclete Press). The word “lacuna” means a blank space, missing part, or empty hollow — and Cairns uses the word in various contexts, such as in the introductory poem, “Recuperating Lacunae”:

-----No, not so much---------------an emptiness, never yet
-----an emptiness.------------------Think, rather, a discrete

-----cove proving still---------------to offer—and ever
-----to offer—what one-------------cannot, can never,


He has long been a poet striving to describe the indescribable, and slow to accept common theological interpretations as the whole truth.

Robert Cording recently wrote, “For Cairns, language is a form of faith, faith that reaches out towards what is inexhaustible and uncontainable, and faith that trusts words can be a means of coming nearer to what necessarily remains out of reach… Lacunae is the work of a faithful and faith-filled man unafraid of letting his ego be seared, of living in time that continues ‘ticking in perplexity.’”

The following poem is from Cairn’s new poetry collection, Lacunae.

Implicative Lacunae
-----…It was like
-----A new knowledge of reality.

-------------------------— Stevens

Entering the clearing, he knew
That he had heard it, the single
note expanding beyond the reach
of any single note, as if,
finally, his dim ideas
about things showed themselves to be
stick figures failing to evince
the fullness of the body. She
said to him so, at long last you
have heard it, yes?
He stood just there
at the clearing’s edge, daring not
to speak. He closed his eyes that he
might better listen, and the note
became a space like the clearing
into which all that could be sung
found dwelling, and he became
like a man without a doctrine,
became a man intent on praise,
a man whose freedom would ever
expand, would ever reach toward.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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