Mark Jarman, Unholy Sonnets, Part IV, 48: The World

I have now finished contemporary poet Mark Jarman’s book of poems, Unholy Sonnets. I have thoroughly enjoyed his variation on John Donne’s Holy Sonnets. It took me a while to harmonize with these poems, but it did happen. Saying that, I will say that I prefer Christian Wiman and Scott Cairns (especially the former).

I wanted to quote a poem from this fourth section of Unholy Sonnets. In each of the four parts, Jarman has one long sonnet (i.e. a poem made of several sonnets). The one from the third part, “Sightings,” is fantastic, but decided to quote a different poem. For the fourth part, I have decided to quote the entire long poem, Unholy Sonnet 48, “The World.” (I am going to bold and red some of this poem to highlight some favorite parts of this poem, since it is slightly longer than a normal 14-liner).

The world works for us and we call it grace.
It works against us and, if we are brave,
We call it nothing and we keep our faith,
And only to ourselves we call it fate.
What makes the world work? No one seems to know.
The clouds arrange the weather, the sea goes
Deep, a black stillness seethes at the earth’s core,
And somebody invents the telephone.
If we are smart, we know where we fit in.
If we are lucky, we know what to bid.
If we are good, we know a charming fib
Can do more good than harm. So we tell it.
The world was meant to operate like this.
The working of the world was ever thus.

The working of the world was ever thus.
The empty air surrounds us with its love.
A fire of water opens at a touch.
And earth erupts, earth curves away, earth yields.
Someone imagines strive and someone peace.
Someone inserts the god in the machine
And someone picks him out like a poppy seed.
In every new construction of desire,
The old dissatisfactions rule the eyes.
The new moon eats the old and, slice by slice,
Rebuilds a face of luminous delight, 
In which we see ourselves, at last, make sense.
It is the mirror in everything that shines.

It is the mirror in everything that shines
And makes the soul the color of the sky
And clarifies and gradually blinds
And shows the spider its enormous bride.
And we show our reluctant gratitude,
Searching the paths and runways for a spoor
Of cosmic personality, one clue,
Even the fossil light of burned-out proof.
It is enough and not enough to sketch
The human mask inside the swarming nest
And hold the face, a template, to the egg
And stamp its features on the blank of death.
Although we break rock open to find life
We cannot stare the strangeness from the leaf.

We cannot stare the strangeness from the leaf,
And so we spin all the difference on a wheel
And blur it into likeness. So we seize
The firefly and teach it human need
And mine its phosphor for cold light and call
Across the world as if it were a lawn,
Blinking awake at summer dusk. We talk
Ceaselessly to things that can’t respond
Or won’t respond. What are we talking for?
We’re talking to coax hope and love from zero.
We’re talking so the brain of the geode
Will listen like a garden heliotrope
And open its quartz flowers. We are talking
Because speech is a sun, a kind of making.

Because speech is a sun, a kind of making,
And muteness we have always found estranging,
Because even our silences are phrasing
And language is the tongue we curl for naming,
Because we want the earth to be like heaven
And heaven to be everywhere we’re headed,
Because we hope our formulae, like hexes,
Will stop and speed up time at our behesting.
There is no help for us, and that’s our glory.
A furious refusal to acknowledge,
Except in words, the smallness of our portion,
Pumps heart, lights brain, and conjures up a soul
From next to nothing. We know all flesh is grass.
And when the world works, we still call it grace.

And here are the titles I gave to each of the Unholy Sonnets (bold means that Jarman titled them himself; red means that I quoted that poem).

Part I

  • 1, The Word Answer
  • 2, Care of Prayers
  • 3, Bend
  • 4, Pry Open the Heavens
  • 5, Out of my Painful Stasis
  • 6, The Chained Angel
  • 7, God in the Details
  • 8, Omniscience
  • 9, Spam Prayers
  • 10, The Haves and Have-nots of Prayer
  • 11, Shoplift Catechism
  • 12, God Is Not and Is

Part II

  • 13, Selfhood
  • 14, In Via Est Cisterna
  • 15, The Definition of Alone
  • 16, Christ’s Paradox
  • 17, Unpleased
  • 18, Cycle
  • 19, Lucifer’s Songs
  • 20, Thinness
  • 21, Harsh Attire
  • 22, The Loss
  • 23, The Third Day
  • 24, The Dead

Part III

  • 25, Pleasure Our God
  • 26, In Memoriam R.J.
  • 27, Heats Devoured
  • 28, Camera
  • 29, The Soul
  • 30, Sightings
  • 31, Worship Always
  • 32, Law
  • 33, A Poet’s Prayer
  • Praying to Nothing
  • 35, Silence
  • 36, Love: The Aftermath

Part IV

  • 37, The Attempts
  • 38, Endure
  • 39, Voices
  • 40, Conception
  • 41, The Muchness of Persimmons
  • 42, Reversal
  • 43, Mind to Mind
  • 44, Dreamless Mindless Sleep
  • 45, Larry Levis
  • 46, Nashville Noon
  • 47, Orchestration
  • 48, The World



St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, Refutation of the Jews

A quotation and two questions concerning the fifth section of St. Athanasius’ treatise, On the Incarnation.


Who then is this of whom the divine scriptures say these things? Or who is so great that the prophets also foretell such things about him? For no one else is found in the scriptures except the Savior common to all, the God Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. For he it is who came forth from a virgin, and appeared on earth as a human being, and has an inexpressible generation in the flesh. For there is no one who can speak of his father in the flesh, his body not being from a man but from a virgin alone. Just as one can, therefore, trace the genealogy of David and Moses and all the patriarchs, so no one can tell of the generation in the flesh of the Savior from man. For he it is who made the star tell of the birth [genesis] of his body. For as the Word came down from heaven, it was necessary to have a sign from heaven too; and as the king of creation came forth, it was necessary that he be clearly known by the whole inhabited world. He was born in Judea and they came from Persia to worship him. He it is who even before his bodily manifestation took the victory against opposing demons and the trophy over idolatry. So all Gentiles from everywhere, rejecting the inherited customs and the godlessness of idols, place their hope henceforth in Christ and dedicate themselves to him, so that one can also see such things with the eyes themselves. For at no other time did the godlessness of the Egyptians cease, except when the Lord of all, riding as upon a cloud, went down there in the body, destroyed the error of the idols, and brought all to himself and through himself to the Father. He it is that was crucified, with the sun and creations as witnesses together with those who inflicted death upon him; and by his death salvation has come to all, and all creation been ransomed. He it is who is the Life of all, and who like a sheep delivered his own body to death as a substitute for the salvation of all, even if the Jews do not believe. (§37)

I picked this quotation because it answers the question “Who did the prophets speak of?” with a resounding and indubitable THEY SPOKE OF CHRIST. The prophets could have been speaking of no other human being when they proclaimed a king and savior. They spoke of the human being who was also God.

Particular Question
The lineage of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew, flows through Joseph. Yet Jesus was not biologically of Joseph. What does this mean of this lineage?

Universal Question
Are there no more prophets or visions after Christ? (§39)

The Stitches Here: Poems and Photographs

the stitches here

Hello. I wanted to post something about the thesis I am working on. I am doing my undergraduate honors thesis in English Creative writing at The University of Arkansas. It will be a book of 20 poems and photographs paired together, which I have titled The Stitches Here: Poems and Photographs. My friend, Florence, will be binding some books for me. I wanted to invite whoever would like to receive one of these books to let me know. I will be selling each of the first copies for around $30 or $40 (prices will be solidified soon).

What are the poems and photographs about?
The poems and photographs directly or indirectly seek to expose the places in this where we see God at work, where we see the divine stitches here. Like stitches, this work can often seem gritty and unclean, but it is for our good and His glory.

What kind of poetry do you write?
Well, I typically write free verse, but I do have some formal poems in this work. My thesis advisor, Geoffrey Brock is a formalist, and I have read a decent amount of formal poetry. If you would like to get a sense of my writing style, it would be helpful to read favorite writers: Christian Wiman, Scott Cairns, T.S. Eliot, John Donne, Seamus Heaney, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Cormac McCarthy, Marilynne Robinson, and James Joyce. Also see this.

What will the book look like?
The books will be bound by Florence in Japanese Binding Style, likely to be navy and deep-leather-tan. The paper will be Epson Ultrapremium Presentation Matte Paper. It will be roughly 30 single sided pages. The pages will be 11″ (width) x 8.5″ (height).


  1. Preface
  2. Mute
  3. I find God only in my intoxication
  4. Airport Catechism I: Suitcase
  5. An Abstract of the I
  6. Tilma
  7. Airport Catechism II: Plane
  8. Extraction
  9. Gospel Music at a Stoplight
  10. Aphilia
  11. Dispatches from Ireland
  12. Airport Catechism III: Kamikazi
  13. Ecdysis
  14. Tearing Windows
  15. Codename Natalie
  16. Airport Catechism IV: Arrival and Departure
  17. Conjured Proverbs
  18. Perhaps a Prayer
  19. Airport Catechism V: Unanswered
  20. Splash
  21. Mundane Glory
  22. Notes
  23. Bibliography
  24. Acknowledgments


I was recently asked about poetry regarding my favorites and/or which poets I suggest one to read. Now my favorite poets and the poets I would suggest could be the same, but perhaps I would suggest differently to different people in different situations. Nevertheless, I wanted to share my favorite poets and poets I would recommend in one list, providing an example poem from each one. Here is the current list in alphabetical order:

  • Scott Cairns
    • Idiot Psalm 10
  • John Donne
    • Batter my heart, O three person’d God
  • T.S. Eliot
    • Four Quartets
  • Seamus Heaney
    • A New Song
  • George Herbert
    • The Pulley
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
    • As Kingfishers Catch Fire
  • Christian Wiman
    • The Preacher Addresses the Seminarians

*[Note: these are all lyric poets. If I were to make my definition for poetry include things like epic poetry or if I were to make my definition of poetry more broad, I would include this other list]

  • Homer
    • The Odyssey
  • The Book of Ecclesiastes
  • The Book of Lamentations
  • Dante
    • Inferno
  • James Joyce
    • Dubliners
  • Cormac McCarthy
    • Blood Meridiean
  • Marilynne Robinson
    • Housekeeping
    • Gilead

*[While I know Joyce, McCarthy, and Robinson are novelists, they compose the most poetic prose I have graced my eyes with. That is why I include them in my broadened definition of poetry, even though I know them to be writers of fiction and not of poetry]

St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, The Death of Christ and the Resurrection of the Body

A quotation and two questions concerning the fourth section of St. Athanasius’ treatise, On the Incarnation


But it is not the a property of one dead to be active. Or one who in no way acts, but lies lifeless, which is the property of the demons and idols, dead as they are? For the Son of God is living and active (Heb 4.12), works daily, and effects the salvation of all. But death is daily proved to have become completely weakened, and it is the idols and demons rather who are dead, so that from this no one can any longer doubt regarding the resurrection of the body.

I chose this passage because it marks the simple but beautiful truth that God IS at work.

Particular Question
Why does the body have to be more than one day old and less than three days old in order for the resurrection to be believable (§26)?

Universal Question
What is the power of the cross? [this has been a personally important question for me for the past two or three years of my life]

Mark Jarman, Unholy Sonnets, Part III, Unholy Sonnet 28


Pentax K1000 (film), Nikon D5200 (digital)

Continuing my reading of Mark Jarman’s book of sonnets, Unholy Sonnets, I have found myself more receptive of his poems. I at least feel more prepared as I encountered each sonnet. This usually happens as I continue reading an author’s poems. You build trust and understanding much like in a friendship.

I almost wanted to share a longer sonnet, Sonnet 30, Sightings. While I will not be sharing this one, everyone who is interested should go look up this poem. It is fantastic. It is centered on the sightings of Christ after his death.

However, I will be sharing his 28th Unholy Sonnet, which I have titled, Camera. I decided to share this poem because it relates to me, my interests, and my thesis. I have been practicing photography in some capacity since I was in 8th grade. A rise in interest and practice occurred this past year when I purchased my Nikon D5200, and subsequenlty my film camera, a Pentax K1000. I recently just purchased a nice lens from Sigma that I’m extremely glad to be using.

Needless to say, the content of this poem drew my eye. Here is the poem:

I’ll bet the final reckoning’s like this:
That brilliant day in Swansea, in the park
Across the street from Thomas’s birthplace,
My camera pointed everywhere to mark
In light the record of our happiness,
My daughters on the swings, his poetry
Among the garden stones, the Bristol Channel–
The North Atlantic’s Welsh and English kennel–
Beyond the Mumbles Lighthouse. You could see
All the way to heaven’s old address.
I thought I caught it all, a floating spark
Of memory that film would surely fix,
Only to learn the cog-slipped roll was dark
And blank as Lethe and the River Styx.

Things from 2017

I will be posting here an accumulation of my favorite things from the year of 2017. I have marked my special favorites in RED.


  • Ansel Adams – 400 Photographs
  • Beowulf
  • Boethius – The Consolation of Philosophy
  • Scott Cairns – Idiot Psalms
  • Renee Descartes – Meditations on First Philosophy
  • John Donne – Holy Sonnets
  • Margaret Edson – Wit
  • T.S. Eliot – The Waste Land; Four Quartets
  • Merry A. Forresta – Beyond Beauty (photographs of Irving Penn)
  • Seamus Heaney – Wintering Out
  • James Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian
  • Marilynne Robinson – Housekeeping; Gilead
  • Christian Wiman – Once in the West


  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  • Arctic Monkeys – AM
  • The Avett Brothers – Emotionalism; I And Love And You; The Carpenter
  • Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago; Bon Iver; 22, A Million
  • Brother Moses – Legends (EP)
  • Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
  • The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
  • Cold War Kids – Mine is Yours; Dear Miss Lonelyhearts; Hold My Home; LA DIVINE
  • The Collection – Listen to the River
  • Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
  • Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
  • Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE; Blonde
  • The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart; Let’s Be Still
  • Hozier – Hozier
  • Gregory Alan Isakov – Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony
  • J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive; 4 Your Eyes Only
  • Joey Bada$$ – Summer Knights
  • Josh Garrels – Love & War & The Sea in Between; The Sea in Between (Soundtrack)
  • Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak; The Life of Pablo
  • Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city; To Pimp a Butterfly; untitled unmastered.; DAMN.
  • Kings Kaleidoscope – Beyond Control; Joy Has Dawned; Asaph’s Arrows
  • Leon Bridges – Coming Home
  • Local Natives – Gorilla Manor; Hummingbird; Sunlit Youth
  • Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More; Babel
  • Nas – Illmatic
  • Noname – Telefone
  • The Oh Hellos – Dear Wormwood; Notos (EP)
  • Sufjan Stephens – Illinois; Songs for Christmas; All Delighted People (EP); Carrie & Lowell
  • Vampire Weekend – Contra; Modern Vampires of the City
  • The Weeknd – Trilogy
  • Young the Giant – Young the Giant; Mind Over Matter; Home of the Strange


  • The New World (Terrence Malick)
  • The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
  • To the Wonder (Terrence Malick)
  • Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson)
  • Rushmore (Wes Anderson)
  • The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson)
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson)
  • The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson)
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
  • Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
  • The Revenant (Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu)
  • Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock and Thornton Wilder)
  • Rope (Alfred Hitchcock)
  • Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock)
  • Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)
  • The Book of Love (Bill Purple)
  • Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
  • Fargo (The Coen Brothers)
  • No Country for Old Men (The Coen Brothers)
  • Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)


  • Coffee
    • Ethiopia Gesha Natural (Onyx Coffee Lab)
    • Columbia La Palma Lactic Acid (Onyx Coffee Lab)
      • Gesha
      • SL-28
      • Sidra
    • Ethiopia Hambela Buku Natural (Onyx Coffee Lab)
    • Columbia Cerra Azul Gesha Washed (Onyx Coffee Lab)
    • Panama Natural (Novel Coffee Roasters)
    • Columbian Gesha (Novel Coffee Roasters)
  • Beer
    • Mosaic IPA (Community)
    • Deep Ellum IPA (Deep Ellum)
    • Paleo Ale (Fossil Cove)
    • Coffee IPA (Fossil Cove + Onyx Coffee Lab)
    • Double IPA (Ozark)
    • Philosopher (New Province)
    • Freshly Squeazed (Deschutes)
  • Gin
    • Monkey 47
    • Hendrick’s
    • Brockman’s
    • Listoke
  • Whiskey
    • Redbreast 15 yr. (Irish)
    • Redbreast 21 yr. (Irish)
    • McAllan 25 yr. (Scotch)
    • Balvenie 12 yr. (Scotch)
    • Balvenie 15 yr.: Carribean Cask (Scotch)
    • Glenkinchie 12 yr. (Scotch)
    • Oban 14 Yr. (Scotch)
    • Oban Little Bay (Scotch)
    • Glenmorangie 12 yr. Nectar D’Or (Scotch)


  • Got a job at Onyx Coffee Lab
  • Applied and interviewed for an internship with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF)
  • Went to Ireland and Scotland
  • Learned a lot about photography
  • Close to completing a first draft of my thesis (19/20 poems; 13/20 photographs)
  • Read and wrote poetry
  • Started cooking and baking
  • Learned how to stumble my way through Adobe Photoshop
  • My brother got into the college he wanted to
  • My other brother got a job
  • My dad’s dentistry practice is doing well
  • My mom is reading a lot and enjoying BSF
  • My dogs are freaking beautiful
  • I am learning to STRUGGLE PRETTY (cf. Penny and Sparrow)

I HAVE COMPLETED THESE PIECES (poems + photographs)

  • Mute
  • I find God only in my intoxication
  • Airport Catechism I: Suitcase
  • An Abstract of the I
  • Tilma
  • Airport Catechism II: Plane
  • Extraction
  • Gospel Music at a Stoplight
  • Dispatches from Ireland
  • Ecdyisis
  • Tearing Windows
  • Splash
  • Mundane Glory