Monday, June 3, 2013

Kathleen Norris

Kathleen Norris is an essayist and poet. She is well-known for her bestselling non-fiction books, which bring Christian spirituality and everyday life together — the most recent of which is Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life (2008). She has also written seven volumes of poetry, including Journey: New and Selected Poems (2001).

She grew up in Hawaii, and attended Bennington College in Vermont, where she continued her drift from the faith of her childhood. In 1971 her first book of poetry, Falling Off, won the Big Table Younger Poets Award. Three years later, she and her husband inherited her grandparents’ South Dakota farm; they moved there and decided to become part of the community by attending the local Presbyterian church. This changed her life, and inspired her first non-fiction book, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (1993), which became a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

In 1986 she also became an oblate of a Benedictine monastery in North Dakota, which led to her book The Cloister Walk (1996). Her husband of more than 25 years, the poet David Dwyer, died in 2003.

The following poem first appeared in Cross Currents.

Luke 14, a Commentary

He is there like Clouseau
at the odd moment,
just right: when he climbs
out of the fish pond
into which he has spectacularly
fallen, and says condescendingly
to his hosts, the owners
of the estate: "I fail
where others succeed." You know
this is truth. You know
he'll solve the mystery.
Unprepossessing
as he is, the last
of the great detectives.
He'll blend again into the scenery, and
more than once he'll be taken
for the gardener.
"Come now," he says, taking us
for all we're worth, "Sit
in the low place."
Why not? We ask. So easy
to fall for a man
who makes us laugh. "Invite those
you do not want to have, people
you'd hardly notice." He puts
us on, we put him on; another
of his jokes. "There's
room," he says. The meal is
good, absurdly
salty, but delicious.
Charlie Chaplin put it this way: "I want to play
the role of Jesus. I look the part.
I'm a Jew.
And I'm a comedian."

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca