Monday, February 27, 2006

Goodtime Jesus

For my first official post I have decided to go into "poetry appreciation" mode and talk about one of my favorite short poems Goodtime Jesus by James Tate. I cannot read this prose poem without smiling; it is a great thing to read when you want out of a bad mood. It's from his 1979 volume Riven Doggeries (though I got it out of Selected Poems). Here is the whole thing:
Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dreaming so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it? A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled back, skin falling off. But he wasn't afraid of that. It was a beautiful day. How 'bout some coffee? Don't mind if I do. Take a little ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.
This is best read out loud, in an optimistic voice.

The poem is funny. It is primarily funny and playful and what I am going to say next should not distract from this fact, or replace it, or make it less important than the most important thing about the poem. But feeding into the funny is the idea that Christianity has its source, not in a divine order, not in providence, but in a mood of a guy on a day like any other. Though it is flippant, the poem is not at all anti-Christian; Kurt Vonnegut said that his great grandfather wrote "If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not," and the poem provides a premise to support a statement like this. It suggests -- and it is a good suggestion, I think -- that major myths and stories, major grand narratives and ideas, if you could go back to the beginning, are no bigger than our everyday non-sense, and that our everyday non-sense could be the source of big stuff.


jennifert72 said...

happily, i can get more doses of geoff klock!!! excellent choice of poem to inagurate your blog.
any comment about the new xmen?

Geoff Klock said...

I may talk about Whedon's Astonishing X-Men at some point, including the Year Two launch, but the guy is such a genius with such a huge body of work I don't want to spend too much time -- as I have just started blogging -- on his sub-par work.

Katie said...

Clearly Mr. Klock is subverting the conventions of the blogosphere by filling his posts with...substance. You're a dangerous man. Watch your back.

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