In this memorable collection of poetry George Edward McDonough speaks about his faith and his lack of faith, about his certainties and his lack of certainties, about his maddening despair and his joyful gratitude for life in all its manifestations. His words are not a theological discourse nor a sectarian argument, not an attempt to convert or proselytize, but a deeply personal expression of his own individuality. He opens the door to himself, and in his utterances both he and his readers find a home.

McDonough's poems allow one to let go, to relinquish oneself to what is beyond the self. He reaches out for the divine presence while simultaneously reflecting the changing moods that condition him. It is certain that many individuals will identify with him and feel their own lives enhanced.

Each poem can be understood in context, and there is more than one. The first context is his own life and culture, which may require at least some study and reflection to grasp. Another context is the tradition and heritage through which he voices his universal humanity. The third emerges when the reader interacts with the poem and transposes and adopts its expressions to his own existential situation. In regard to the convergence of vastly different contexts we may think of the distance between two horizons and the two becoming one.

An analogy illustrates the communion between the poet and those who encounter his work. An actor studies his role in order to duplicate another person, reincarnate another character on stage. He does more than mimic or memorize a part. He places his own gestures and actions at the service of his role. He mobilizes talents of imagination and concentration to embody the role with all the strong and subtle, tender and violent emotions of that character. On stage the actor aims for a credible replica of another person.

This illustrated what happens when we seriously participate in McDonough's poems. The aim of attending to the texts is to make them at home in our own context. Thus we can use them to understand ourselves, to articulate our own experience. A transaction takes place when the poet's sentiment and expression are translated into our own heart, and ultimately the poet's experience becomes the vicarious experience of one who often lives distant in time and space. The effect is a happy one: our horizons are broadened; a more profound and richer insight is achieved.

Many of George Edward McDonough's admirers find that the deep sentiments of his serious poetry apply to their situation. The threat of death is no stranger to us; and its allies come in manifold forms: Loneliness, political enemies, unfairness, sickness, psychological depression, advanced years, fears. This panorama of suffering belongs to all of us, even though one may feel chronically alone in his or her own personal suffering. The drama which the poems in his book play out is real and applicable to our lives. We can impress them with the tone of our own voice, the waves of our own emotion. But at the same time the poems mould us and become our own. Ultimately, it is a question of letting the spirit of the poet invade our spirit.

Very Rev. Konrad Schaefer, O. S. B.
Prior of the Benedictine Monastery
Guernavaca. Mexico

No comments:

Post a Comment