Whatever Happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that –
Prayer, by Galway Kinnell, from A New Selected Poems (Mariner Books).
The first time I read “Prayer” I thought it a rather defeatist poem. I was wrong. Kinnell is saying ‘I want only what is given to me but what that is is something I will embrace.’ Dive beneath the lines and there is more to this poem than the mere acceptance seen on a surface reading. It is a poem filled with hope, with anticipation. These are not the thoughts of someone in despair, but rather someone excited about the uncertainty in front of them. Deceptively simple, “Prayer” resonates with meaning but as with most poetry, it has to be read aloud so the true meaning becomes clear.
Good art avoids being trite because it does not pretend to know the answers. It makes us think. The power of art is never that it is prescriptive but rather that it is suggestive.