View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The slug chronicles: 200 slugs

Somehow, I overcame good taste and literary decorum and have written my 200th haiku dedicated to "a slug among weeds."

Or, as I jokingly call them, "slugkus."

May God forgive me!

Last year, I wrote the following to help explain what I was doing:

Years ago when I was a reporter at a Catholic newspaper we received a copy of a book by a Rochester spiritual writer, Father Thomas Green, SJ. (God rest his soul.)

The book was Weeds Among the Wheat.

Being a wise guy - and not intending any slight against Father or his book - I quipped that if I ever wrote an autobiography it would be called A Slug Among Weeds.

The Slug part is a given. Slug suggests a slothful, lazy person, an idler. That's me.

It's also a lowly creature. Also me. Some wags might even call me slimy.

I think of St. Francis calling his own body Brother Ass. At least he was worthy of being a mammal.

When it comes to Weeds - I have an affection for them (as my neighbors might attest). I'm not one of those herbicidal maniacs out to massacre every non-grass plant on my lawn. I like dandelions, chicory, Queen Anne's Lace.

From a theological point of view, there are many folks who have been (and are) considered "weeds" by others - lepers, prostitutes, drunks, tax collectors, fishermen, shepherds, pro-lifers, and so on. So A Slug Among Weeds makes sense.

As for the sluggy haiku, well, I think many purists would not consider my 17-syllable scribbles proper haiku, although a few of my creations might flirt with the literary boundaries. I certainly would not submit them to haiku journals.

I'm simply playing with the words and images, having a grand old time, nurturing my Dada side and my inner slug.

And besides, it's better than sitting around obsessing over the perceived sins and faults of others.

I'm a slug, after all.


Since then, some people have suggested that I package some of the poems as a series, and see if a literary magazine just might take them. After all, Japanese haiku poet Ban’ya Natsuishi wrote a series of "The Flying Pope" haiku.

But some people have also taken offense, assuming that I'm using the poems to attack them, or that I'm referring to them as "weeds."

To the first point, I write whatever pops into my head. If I'm writing when something is on my mind, yes, I suppose the poems sometimes grow out of what others have said or done, or out of a particular mood I'm in. But that's not the purpose of the poems, and I certainly don't intend to use them as a weapons.

As for the latter point, weeds is not meant as a pejorative. It's meant to refer to all those people who are considered weeds by others. They are my lepers, and like St. Francis, I embrace them. They are God's children.

So ... I'll continue looking under boards and in damp places for inspiration.

300 slugs? You never know.


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