A Presence

A Presence

 

That I have felt your presence

An aura of unworthiness

I have felt as well

Enveloping my heart

As it tears its way towards you

Helplessly the tears fly

On ethereal wings of words

Drawn to you as I am

A form invisible

Whose full energy

Blinds mere mortals to dust

 

 

This is a response to the reading from Renard for Week 1.  I was inspired primarily by Renard’s section discussing exegesis, or the procedural interpretation of the Qur’an.  In the discussion, which begins on page 4, he explores how texts can be interpreted in many different ways, with both their surface meanings and their internal, allegorical, or other meanings.  The Qur’an itself mentions that there are passages with both obvious and hidden meanings, some of which are only known to God.  Out of this knowledge, different schools of Islamic thought have created different solutions to explain who has the skills needed to interpret the Qur’an and how that process should take place.  Renard also highlights how a key reason for this allowance of reinterpretation was so that the religion could adapt to changing circumstances.

In writing this poem, I was attempting to on one level, create a poem that could serve as a devotional poem describing the feelings of someone towards a beloved, much along the lines of the poetry of the Persian poet, Rumi.  Rumi’s poems are on one level apparently love poems, but on another level can be seen as a form of devotional artwork, with God as the beloved.  For instance, I consciously chose to use the word, “words” instead of “scripture” in the seventh line to add ambiguity of context to the piece rather than making the religious underpinnings obvious.  Thus, the entire poem can be seen as describing the way that one can be overcome by love and devotion.

Another key goal was to retain ambiguity in meaning so as to emphasize both the importance of interpretation in understanding the meaning, but also to emphasize how ambiguity can lead to wildly different interpretations of the verses.  For instance, the reference to tears being brought on by God’s presence is a reference to the belief of many Muslims that they must weep during prayer.  That line could just as easily be seen as a reference to a single person’s experience, or could be more widely interpreted through allegory that any involuntary response to God’s presence, such as crying or shouting, would be appropriate in that situation.

I also experimented with translating this poem into French to explore the way that layers of veiled meaning can be lost, added, or transformed in translation, but the translation didn’t produce a poem that I was as satisfied with as the English version.  That fact in and of itself can point to the importance of reading the Qur’an in its native Arabic.

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