Thom Satterlee (2009)
A friend of mine once described me as "an elitist snob with considerable status anxiety." He's a sociologist-so he knows his terms. And he really is a friend--despite the apparent put down. For me, receiving an NEA goes a long way in soothing my status anxiety woes. If I'm lucky and devout, they may even be behind me.
With the encouragement of this grant, I hope to write less anxiously about subjects that continue to fascinate me: philosophy, religion, language, and their many intersections. In my first published book of poems, I followed the life of the fourteenth-century theologian John Wyclif. Currently, I am working on a series related to a better known figure, Søren Kierkegaard. His writings have moved me since I was in my late teens (I am now 41), and I look forward to re-reading his books and writing what I hope will be a spiritual biography in verse.
Sometimes you have to raise the body up
to burn it down. So it was with Wyclif,
who rested forty-two years under chancel stone
condemned by the Papacy, protected by the Crown.
Finally, a bishop came with a few men,
spades, shovels, a horse and cart. By then,
not much was left of Wyclif--hair and skin gone,
his bones slipped out of place inside the simple alb
they'd buried him in. The bishop gathered what he could.
Beside the River Swift, he lit a pile of wood
and tossed the bones on one at a time,
cursing the heretic from limb to limb.
Afterwards, they shoveled ash into the water
and no one even thought the word martyr.
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Thom Satterlee is the author of Burning Wyclif, chosen by Robert Fink for the 2006 Walt McDonald First-Book Poetry Series and published by Texas Tech University Press. This volume was also selected as a 2007 American Library Association Notable Book and as a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize. He lives in Marion, Indiana, and teaches at nearby Taylor University.
Photo by Jim Garringer