On Hierophany

By Karen An-hwei Lee
One example of hierophany is the apparition of angels.
This is a new word I overheard this morning. It occurs
when the divine realm manifests — or the word intrudes — 
into our quotidian realm. The natural one, an untidy
fleshliness of the ordinary. Or the sacred and profane
is another way to say this. I asked whether it is a hernia,
and the answer was no. A herniated condition is viscera
on viscera — a disc, organs, the skin, or nerves. Besides,
such a comparison would be profane. A figure of speech
already exists, I said, in a hieratic silence of cursive
writing long ago dead. Not long ago, those two phrases
dwelled in separate worlds. I dare you to use the word
hernia in a poem, said a friend. So I not only used
the word, I invited God into language. Or God existed
before language, while God is also the word. Remember,
all theophanies are forms of  hierophany. However,
the converse is not always true — not all hierophanies
are theophanies — or God visible in our world.

Source: Poetry (April 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2014
 Karen An-hwei Lee


Karen An-hwei Lee is the author of Phyla of Joy (Tupelo, 2012), Ardor (Tupelo, 2008), and In Medias Res (Sarabande, 2004), winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. A book of literary criticism, Anglophone Literatures in the Asian Diaspora (Cambria, 2013), was selected for the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Lee’s work appears in journals such as The American . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Mind, Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine, The Spiritual


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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