Being Catholic, I enjoy how I am able to explore my faith more through these poems and truly see how God is always present. We just have to open our eyes to seeing the world in different ways. Mark S. Burrow’s poem, “First Listening,” in Presence 2017, helped me to see that the natural world itself can give voice to the joy of God’s creation.
--Rose Anna Dragonetti
Regardless of the poet’s belief system, the poems of Presence are capable of making a profound impression because they are, above all, aware of the reader’s presence in the poem.
As a musician, I appreciate Presence’s mission to bring forth new and non-mainstream art because what is readily available is not always the best. I like how the book reviews serve as a type of road-map to continue exploring contemporary Catholic writing.
--Louis Del Virginia
In his article, “Faith in Fiction” (First Things), Randy Boyagoda defends literature, despite its limitations: “Insofar as it can reveal the fullness and wholeness of human experience, insofar as it can reveal ourselves in our inner lives and experiences of time and event as being created by and for love, literature doesn’t lie. It testifies to the ultimate truth of human experience: We are not, in the end, alone.” Through the accessibility of its poems, Presence seeks to create a community of readers who are not alone in their pursuit of the ultimate truths of human experience.
Growing up Catholic, I find that my faith helped shaped my perspective, so it is interesting to see how the faith of the poets in Presence shaped their work. Many of the poems in the 2017 issue appear to be preoccupied with humanity’s fallen state, in the vein of Flannery O’Connor, who writes: “The universe of the Catholic fiction writer is one that is founded on the theological truths of faith, but particularly on three of them, which are basic—the Fall, the Redemption, and the Judgment.”
Renowned Catholic fiction writer, Flannery O’Connor once stated that “an identity is not to be found on the surface.” Poets need not be so literal about their Catholic identity, but rather write in their authentic voices, confronting their demons head-on with bravery and, thereby, serving as instruments of grace and truth.
Even a short lyric poem has a central action to it. Poems in Presence will make it possible to identify the source of this action as God’s grace moving within our lives.
The personae in the poems of Presence may be surprised by either finding God’s interaction in their lives or finding their own need for it.
Humans have always worked toward a way to unite by finding common paths, such as art, religion, and language. It is my hope that Presence will provide a pathway for transcending cultural barriers revealing the presence of God in all of human life.
Catholic art should reflect life. It should not be modeled as a self-help or how-to guide on achieving salvation. Instead it should awaken the imagination that grows from and even creates shared experience between believer and skeptic, traditionalist and modernist, even tragedian and comedian.
It is the test of the believer to maintain his faith in a higher being during times of distress; it is the gift of the poet to be able to make this pain and struggle beautiful.
So often, religion is viewed as an untouchable entity, something people observe or adhere to, but not something we may interact with or integrate into daily human experience. I hope the poems in Presence will make faith palpable as a living, breathing organism and invite us to think more about how we interact with mercy, grace, suffering, sacrifice, and belief.
Poems with strong images and metaphors help readers see, feel, hear, and even taste the presence of God in human lives.
Only poems that reflect the points of view of particular social classes and genders can affect the souls of everyone universally with inspiration, joy, and healing.
Poems that allude to other great works from the Catholic tradition, such as Dante’s Inferno, show the relevance of past experiences in the contemporary world and a long history of faith and its struggles.
1 Peter 2:2 states, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Presence can be that “spiritual milk” flowing through writer into reader.
Whether the reader is a believer or not, it is important for the poems in Presence to evoke a personal response from the reader. Our relationship with the divine is most fundamentally a personal one.