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A college student's attempt to make poetry exciting, illuminating, and accessible ・ One poem a day during the month of April

  • Mishap

Day Four: Mailboxes and Gods in Alan Shapiro's "Prayer for a New Home"

I am fortunate for my class schedule. My two creative writing classes force me in a corner to read and write, as I should. The poem I share with you is a double-edged sword. Last Thursday, I was supposed to analyze Alan Shapiro's "Prayer for a New Home"

and then model the poem -- meaning, take the form and content and rewrite it. This is a task which increases in difficulty the more I read the poem. See what I mean:

This poem has such a quiet voice. It provides detail that makes you stop in your path and think curiously about tiny images and delicate sounds, as art should. It draws us closer to this microcosm of wings and matriarchy. I read this poem on a day which could not slow down, which prevented me from looking at the sky or praying. But this poem reminds me.

For a specific reading of the poem: I just love how this poem balances the frailty and might of human beings -- how we could simultaneously "protect and destroy, unaccountably, unsearchably..." (Line 17 & 18). It provides a context for prayer. This powerful and powerless searching for external grace, something that could save from " the cruel or accidental or depredations..." (28-30). Additionally, there are a lot of beautiful layers to this poem. There is the god-like power of the human (either the speaker's family or the mailman) which has dominion over the birds in the mailbox. However, it can speak to a greater allusion of God himself and humankind, hinting towards God's ability to destroy and protect. Regardless, a lot of things to unpack in this "Prayer for a New Home." Read and reread it, as I have.