Winners of the Poetry Competition (2015)

The Boston University Theology and the Arts Initiative is pleased to announce the winners of its 2015 poetry competition on the theme of “Contemporary Religious Experience.”

Winner: “Marshchurch” by Zachary Bos.

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Shaking the grassfringe the greenfrogs startled
drumeared and spearsharp jump in and ruffle
the brownwater bog while boy who I was
sits on the shoreline halfway in dozing
dreaming the meaning of birdrasp and wail,
of rainpatter on peltmarsh, of barespike
swamp snagtrees tautjutting who stand there with
beaver-chewed belts to serve the blue herons
and redshoulder crows as nestperch and mast,
of the round riverstone turtles baking
to stoneshell hardness unyielding on logs
mossrough submerged. That’s how a boy dreams—like
he owns all the meaning—as around him
suckflies come clouding to sip their small sips.


First Runner-Up: “Easter Monday” by Tobi Earnhart-Gold

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And then,

one morning, riding the train,
whistling through the gray blue dawn,

there it is again.

What you longed for, and endlessly

music you thought had forgotten you.

No distant station. No earned reward.
Ordinary music— heard,

then not,                       then heard again.


Second Runner-Up: Metanoia: Theology of Contradiction by Nathan Bakken

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I am writing theology of contradictions.
Or so I have been told.
Queer and Catholic dissolving lines
fusing norms
altering the way in which my Church is understood
like a chemical reaction.
I am the ultimate HOMO-genius mixture.
Mixing prophets of queer theory
Lorde, Sedgwick, Anzaldua and Althaus-Reid.
With the biblical radicals
Beloved Disciple , Mary Magdalene and
Christ Jesus himself.
Producing a concoction on my tongue
that tastes like Truth and Communion wine
But  Communion wine is supposed to taste of blood
not rainbows.

This blood
Blood lingers still on the back of my throat, A
Blood shared between those who have lost their lives at the hands of “God’s word.”
Their blood has been shed, all over the world.
shed in the sheets
shed on the streets.
shed in the sea.
shed in fires
shed on the cross.
Yes, I said cross.
Because when I see Jesus on the cross
Thorns piercing his crown,
nails of oppression hammered into his hands
hate and fear taken shape in a spear driven into his side.
despair painted onto his face.
I see myself.
I see those who have felt the weight of oppression and marginalization on their shoulders.
They call this scene the Passion of the Cross…
And I never saw this as passionate, growing up.
Passion, to me, was
earth-shattering sex where the only feeling left is you and your lover stuck on cloud 9.
unable to touch the island earth shrapnel sinking into a rising sea.

It wasn’t until I came out that I understood what the Passion means.
With each struggle of locked closet doors,
those who “love” me take the thread of church teaching trying to sew my lips shut
not with a needle
but with a thorn broken off of Christ’s crown.
Being pushed through the soft tender chapped lips of a child crying in the third pew in a mass praying that Jesus was like him. Like them.
That Passion hit me in the face like a sponge soaked with vinegar.
when I finally got that taste out of my eyes…
I saw Him. Them. Her. Hir
Like me is queer.
Like me is radical.
Like me experienced
a metanoia of the self
Metanoia: n. The act or process of changing one’s mind; penitence, repentance, spiritual conversion.
Spiritual conversion closet into closeness, gospel into bones only seen under my stained glass skin.
He came out.
of the Cloests.
of the Confessionals
of the Church.
of the dark.
I was afraid of the dark until I was 9. I would lay in my bed quietly as a child, wrapped in grandmother’s quilt.  Singing
This little light of mine
     I’m Gonna let is shine
     This little light of mine
     I’m gonna let it shine
     This little light of mine
     I’m gonna let it shine
     Let it shine
     Let it shine
     Let it—
But when the Church turns into a bushel basket and the Lavender flickers of your candle light-self struggles to make its presence known
You get discouraged.
You get depressed.
You get angry.
You get angry.
And you struggle through scriptures, theologians, and gay bars trying to find words to calm the storm you are called to walk on.
Walking on this storm by faith means holding on to your anger. Because your anger has been earned. it is righteous. It challenges you to make a difference in your life because you are worth it.
Jesus knew the meaning of Earned Anger. Jesus knew the meaning of Radical Love.
You search for the words in your theorist, your prophets. Fighting the contradiction by envisioning compliment. You see yourself on the cross. You try to let your light shine. You are left with your anger and a God who has learned how to hold it. You are left with your love and a God who embodied it.

Passion forms itself gay bar martini with rad queer zine and a rosary wrapped tightly in your hand
Handing off each bead through your fingers. Praying. Fighting. Yelling that one day.

You too can call this Church home.



Winning Poems will be published in FOCUS Magazine, the magazine of the School of Theology.

Click Here for Complete Competition Rules