The dog poems & The poetics of prayer
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The Dog Poems, a poetry manuscript introduced by an essay titled “The Poetics of Prayer,” gives space and voice to characters (“dogs”) trapped by a sense of incongruity between their bodies and the world around them as well as the culture and history that give rise to that incongruity. These voices murmur, sing, and cackle disjointedly in a language not their own. The dog inspires a sense of familiarity and empathy as it relies desperately on an adopted technology - language - to interact with its environment. The core unit of this relationship is the lyric phrase, the dog’s good-faith compromise between learned syntactic order and instinctual synaptic impulse. “The Poetics of Prayer” presents prayer as a figure by which poetry, especially contemporary American poetry, may be understood. Though it may often be considered a rote, formulaic utterance, prayer may also represent an audacious language act, challenging the boundaries of communicative language. The granting of mystical power to language becomes the concern of poets insisting on the spiritual significance of words in addition to their meaning as symbol and object. This theoretical perspective, along with the techniques associated with it, undergirds not only overtly religious or devotional poetry, but also modern and contemporary secular poetry. In particular, it hybridizes otherwise disparate traditions in American poetry. Julie Carr’s Equivocal is explored as an example of this poetics.