Friday, 24 April 2015

U is for Unequivocal...and Untermeyer

Untermeyer, Louis (1885-1977)

Louis Untermeyer was an American poet, editor, anthologist and critic. He was known for his wit and love of puns. However, he was also controversial for his apparent flirtation with Marxism in the fifties, and was blacklisted by the television industry when one of the programmes he appeared in was picketed.  His edited anthologies are widely read by students.  My prompt for today is his poem Prayer.

Parent, Intervene NOW!

The thing is I never felt the need
to clasp my hands and bend my knee
in the manner that priests decreed:
if You are there, You’ll let me be;

and if You’re not, then what’s the use
to make a show of beads and bells?
it doesn’t matter – win or lose;
the playing counts, and nothing else.

Life is unfair, and faith or verse
can be a blade to slice it fine.
Who’s to say what’s better or worse -
an ancient hymn or faithless line?

I really have no argument
with those who ply conch and incense;
You'll know if You're omniscient,
empty rituals make no sense.

If You’re there, You know my heart
and all of its well kept secrets:
its yearnings for beauty; where its scarred,
where it’s home and where it frets;

and how it wants to play the game,
and when it wants to play truant.
Why should I have to chant Your name
and spell out loud what I might want?

If I’m Your child, then what parent
would want me to cringe and submit?
Pray, light a flame and complement
with fearfulness, and that is it?

I’d rather You did not exist
than believe You’re petty and mean,
and crush us with such steely fists
of hollow ritual and routine.

Where is Your justice and Your grace?
Your children burn each other alive,
torture in unspeakable ways,
Why do You let such evil thrive?

You turn Your face, shut Your three eyes
because the evil doers profess
a different path, and paradise;
But they’re Your offspring nonetheless.

A human parent’s limited view,
small love and fairness still compel
her to act without further ado
anytime her children quarrel.

Yet You of monumental Love
let Your children annihilate
each other without one shred of
regret at this quadrille of hate.

Excuse me if I can’t believe
in a Parent who’s this unmoved;
never stops the wars, nor weeps nor grieves.
I’d rather doubt. And I disapprove.

Back where I come from, since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, there has been much discussion regarding freedom of expression.  An Indian author has been forced to retract his words because he depicted certain religious rites which were perceived as negative, although the rites are a historical fact. A few years ago, a well known artist was forced into exile because he depicted certain deities in the nude. Do you think editors/writers/artists should temper freedom with responsibility and discretion? Or should they be free to write/paint as they please and ignore the possible consequences?  

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2015


  1. Hi Nila - I am afraid there are so many bigoted minds, who do do and cannot think, as well as those bullies and dictators - large or small ... the threats and cajoling those who are weak or lame, or perhaps worse the ones unprepared to make a stand.

    The world is in turmoil .. and your words and poem are amazing ... very thought provoking .. thanks for posting them - Hilary

  2. People are free to say or do what they want. They don't have to answer to man as much as they need to answer to God.
    I'm glad my Father is not like that.

  3. What's responsible about censorship? I think it's far worse to give in to the ravings of people whose minds are stuck in the Middle Ages.

  4. Never heard of this poet before. Beautiful poem!!

  5. Hello greetings and good wishes.

    Your question about editors, writers, artists or even movie directors set me thinking.

    All these people do many ignoble, abominable, detestable things in the name of freedom of speech, artistic freedom or cinematic freedom. All that they think about is making money at any cost and be in the limelight. The fastest way to do it is to hurt religious sentiments or pollute the minds of young people by showing them how to break conventions, laws or how to revolt against the established norm of society.

    Artists, editors and directors should be highly responsible in the exercise of their freedom. They have no business to hurt religious sentiment or disturb peace and order in the society or pollute the minds of people especially youngsters with disgusting, disturbing and wicked messages.

    Your poem is excellent and thought provoking.


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