Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lenten Psalm Translation Contest: Winner

I set my psalm contest in the hopes that the challenge would provide a reflective space during Lent. And I think it did. Each of this year's entrants shows a deep engagement with and internationalization of the texts they were working with. They each showed poetic skill and personal vision. I'm grateful for the chance to have read them.

I want to write that I am pleased to announce the results and share with you Jen Hinst-White's winning psalm. And I am. But I am also humbled and grateful for that opportunity. There is a power and solemnity here (as well as a playfulness and music) that makes me hesitant to give a typical grandstand announcement.

Hinst-White's version of the twenty-fifth psalm, sent as part of an essay, is beautiful, powerful, and mysterious in an age that has ceased to take beauty, power, and mystery particularly seriously. It captures the tension of the psalms - how long, Lord? with You have been a shelter... Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand... with Oh my God, in you I trust. Her paper airplane motif is a perfect symbol of human weakness and the difficulty of the divine task of guiding loved, frail vessels. I wrote to her that only she and M.I.A. could pull off paper planes so well.

There's much more I could say about this poem but I won't. The poem will do itself justice much more than I can.

To the Pilot Bridegroom

      after Psalm 25

At your hangar door I toss me: a paper plane.
Bring me in from the rain—take me ragged, and keep me
            all clear of the suck of the great turbines
Collect me and read me, wee stormied scrap,
            and scrap those still scrapping us windward,
            O God—
Don’t forget. Fold aright, and write New on my wing—
make limp paper sing—here, then, the wait—
but love’s side-lying
Eight guides all your flights. Right? Remind me. Remind me.
Find me kindly. Not back in my writhing, wriggling loose of my binding—
            forgive me, still wild—
God of the Polestar. Pilot Bridegroom. Pied Guider.
He gathers scorched ribbons for the tails of his kites.
If he finds paper squares, he folds cranes for his skies,
and so newsprint shares airspace with stars.

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