Sara Judy, NDIAS Graduate Fellow and Ph.D. student in University of Notre Dame Department of English, has published an article in LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory. The article, “The Trouble with Talking to God: Devotional Address in Jorie Graham’s Prayer Poetry,” explores the genre of prayer poetry by looking at the work of the Jorie Graham and other contemporary poets.
Judy writes, "Returning to one of the questions that opened this essay – why would a poem pray? – we find ourselves confronted with a question of connection and communication. Is it possible to reach God through a poem? Given that devotional address is in many ways defined by its failure to achieve communication with the divine, the answer would seem to be 'no.' But still, poems pray, and they pray unironically and urgently. The potential for despair during the first years of the twenty-first century has been enormous, and despite Graham’s (and others’) many prayers, it continues to be so. Our poets could respond to this despair by turning away. But the prayers keep coming. In Swarm, Never, and especially Overlord, Jorie Graham demonstrates how this is possible, offering a variety of strategies which might productively fail: prayer poems that accept, work against, explore, and petition divine silence, attempting to move beyond it or move within it. Of course, the prayers in these collections do not all operate the same way. Nevertheless, Graham’s repeated use of prayer seems united in a single function: it allows her readers to be witness to the transformative potential of failure on a divine scale. Failure to evoke a divine response, that is, might nevertheless open space for 'sudden grace,' for growth and change. It is my hope that other examples of prayer poetry, yet unexplored, will provide additional 'tools for storming the walls' of silence."