Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Michael Sowder

Dear Editor,

Nate Klug writes in your February issue [“The Upside of Terror?”] that the “terror of a life lived in the Christian faith has produced some of our greatest poetry,” but that contemporary religious poetry, rather than “confronting you with a soul drowning in God...is much more likely to invite you in for a dip.” Klug reviews Scott Cairns’s poetry as an example. To try Klug’s thesis that Cairns’s Compass of Affection fails to grapple with the anguish of the spiritual life, I employed a little test—the old technique—Sortes Biblicae (previously, Sortes Homerica, Sortes Virgilianae) and let his book fall open randomly to see what the fates had to say. Before me lay “Blesséd Being,” a poem about having failed, even by middle age, to have embraced the poverty “promising to adorn the heart,” having chosen so often instead the solace of “scotch/served neat.” “I’d hoped by now to have commenced, at least, to pray.” I don’t know what more poignant confession of doubt, failure, and darkness, all so ubiquitous on the spiritual path, Klug was hoping to find.

logan, utah

Originally Published: May 1, 2009

Poetry is looking for thought-provoking responses to work published in the magazine, as well as letters that raise new questions about the state of contemporary poetry. To send us your letter, please fill out all the fields below.

If we choose to use your letter, we will notify you by phone. If you have not heard from us within two weeks of sending your letter, you may assume we will not be using it. All letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may appear online, in print, or both.

Please do NOT send poetry submissions to this account. See Submission Guidelines for further information and policies regarding poetry submissions.


* All fields are required


This prose originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2009
 Michael  Sowder


Described by David Bottoms as “one of our finest spiritual poets,” Michael Sowder often writes poetry on the themes of wilderness, fatherhood, and spirituality. His poetry has been most strongly influenced by spiritual poets—including Walt Whitman, Kabir, Rumi, Hafiz, Du Fu, Li Po, and Rainer Maria Rilke—and by contemporary poets, including Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, David Bottoms, Pattiann Rogers, James Wright, and

Continue reading this biography

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.