Kathryn Maris is the author of a collection, The Book of Jobs, and has published poems in The Harvard Review, Slate, Poetry and several anthologies. She has received a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center and Yaddo. She lives in London where she teaches creative writing at Morley College and Kingston University.
Maris’s poem, “God Loves You,” was published in the Winter 2009-10 edition of Ploughshares. View the Winter 2009-10 issue.
Excerpt from “God Loves You”:
2. In sorrow, I set out. I prayed that
God might look on me in my search for
signs of love in His great world.
After the jump, Maris discusses the evolution of her poem in form and theme.
“God Loves You”
“God Loves You” had an appalling beginning as a terza rima account of a sad young woman who can’t sleep and locks herself in the bathroom so her sobbing won’t wake her lover. The next day the two go on a road trip where a pebble whacks the windshield and a flock of birds nearly does. Believing, I’m ashamed to say, that I had something to work with if only I could get the poem right, I tried the first person instead of the third; I tried free verse; I tried syllabics with jagged indentations. But, like the couple on the road trip, it was going nowhere.
Then one day my children came home from a street fair with yoyos that said “God Loves You” and suddenly I had both my title and the poem’s raison d’etre. It was about someone unable to believe she was loved. She seeks–and finds–what she believes are three signs of God’s love, but it is useless: she returns to the original conviction that she is not loved.
Who is God? God appears in almost all my recent poems and His identity varies. In this poem He could be anyone, perhaps even the lover who was axed after the first draft. But I imagined Him as a literalized biblical God.
So once I settled on God’s identity, I found my form: scripture. That’s when the poem got moving.
The scripture form got hold of me and I wrote a total of nine “Bible poems” with an interlinking cast of characters. I chose nine because it seemed a holy number and because the narrative came to its natural conclusion after the ninth poem. The series is partly modeled on the “Idylls” in Maurice Riordan’s 2007 collection The Holy Land.