7:38am

Sun April 21, 2013
Author Interviews

For A Student Of Theology, Poetry Reverberates

Originally published on Sun April 21, 2013 4:56 pm

April is National Poetry Month, and NPR is celebrating by asking young poets what poetry means to them. This week, Weekend Edition speaks with Nate Klug, whose poems have appeared in Poetry, Threepenny Review and other journals. Klug is also a master of divinity candidate at the Yale Divinity School and a candidate for ordination in the United Church of Christ. "It's nice to go home from a day of thinking about the church to this whole other world of poetry," he says. "But obviously there are some really amazing ways that they intersect."


Interview Highlights

On the interplay between poetry and spirituality

"I read a lot of theology, both for my degree and for my professional track, and sometimes I think poetry, whether or not it's explicitly religious, is one of the best modes that theology, or talking about God, can take. ... Poetry is a form where the language is under so much pressure, and that can really bring about these wonderful surprises and insights in our ways of talking about God or thinking about our faith."

On writing poems that speak to people

"I don't usually have a particular person in mind when I'm in the act of writing, but there have been people that I know my poems have spoken to, and that's always wonderful. A year or two ago I got a letter from a poetry student in Ireland, and I think he was also interested in spirituality and faith. And he just sent me this letter out of the blue saying that he had read a poem or two of mine, and that was really cool to know that on occasion there are these connections where someone picks up a poem and it really speaks to them, or they find something in it that drives their own work or their own thinking. Because that's certainly happened to me with other poets."

On the poem 'Mercy'

"It's a short poem, but it took me, I think, over a year to finally finish. I was also working as a chaplain at a hospital in Bridgeport, and the final image in this poem is one of a hospital television sort of flickering endlessly. So that is something that I drew from my experience."


'Mercy'

Its water-torture-slow
wend in me. Its work

like the reverse of work.
No wonder human

praise won't stick.
No wonder anger's

more often summoned,
its hum, ready-made,

that steadies my head
like hospital television,

throwing blue rumor
for hours at no one.



Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

April is National Poetry Month and throughout the month WEEKEND EDITION is talking with young poets about how they started to write poetry and how it still fits into our daily lives.

NATE KLUG: My name is Nate Klug. And I'm a poet and translator currently living in New Haven, Connecticut. I started to write poetry really ever since I was little. My mother is a poet, so I would write poems sort of in celebration of her birthday or different holidays. And so it was great to have that person to show my work to. I'm on a professional track to be an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. So, that's my professional life. It's nice to go home from a day of thinking about the church to this whole other world of poetry, whatever I'm reading or working on. But, obviously, there are some really amazing ways that they intersect.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KLUG: You know, I read a lot of theology. And, you know, sometimes I think poetry, whether or not it's explicitly religious, is one of the best modes that theology, or talking about God, can take. Because poetry is a form where the language is under so much pressure, and that can really bring about these wonderful surprises and insights in our ways of talking about God or thinking about our faith.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KLUG: You know, I think there's so much action that happens in language when we're just talking to each other on a daily basis. And some of the best poetry in our American tradition - certainly like William Carlos Williams, later on, Lorine Niedecker - these are poets who listened really carefully to the way people spoke around them. You know, I think poetry, one of the things that it can do is help you listen to the way you use language.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KLUG: So, this is a poem called "Mercy." It's a short poem, but it took me, I think, over a year to finally finish. I was also working as a chaplain at a hospital in Bridgeport, and the final image in this poem is one of a hospital television sort of flickering endlessly. "Mercy." (Reading) Its water-torture-slow wend in me. Its work like the reverse of work. No wonder human praise won't stick. No wonder anger's more often summoned. Its hum, ready-made, that steadies my head like hospital television, throwing blue rumor for hours at no one.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: That was poet Nate Klug reading his poem "Mercy."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.