American Life in Poetry: Column 047
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
The poet, novelist and biographer, Robert Morgan, who was raised in North Carolina, has written many intriguing poems that teach his readers about southern folklore. Here's just one example.
When the most intense revivals swept
the mountains just a century ago,
participants described the shouts and barks
in unknown tongues, the jerks of those who tried
to climb the walls, the holy dance and laugh.
But strangest are reports of what was called
the holy cuss. Sometimes a man who spoke
in tongues and leapt for joy would break into
an avalanche of cursing that would stun
with brilliance and duration. Those that heard
would say the holy spirit spoke as from
a whirlwind. Words burned on the air like chains
of dynamite. The listeners felt transfigured,
and felt true contact and true presence then,
as if the shock of unfamiliar
and blasphemous profanity broke through
beyond the reach of prayer and song and hallo
to answer heaven's anger with its echo.
Reprinted from Southern Poetry Review, Vol. 43, No. 1, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright © 2004 by Robert Morgan, whose most recent book is �The Strange Attractor: New and Selected Poems,� Louisiana State University Press, 2004 This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.