Rachel Bunting

god is in the poems.

Last night I had the very pleasant surprise of opening my poetry email account (the one I use for submissions only) to find an acceptance from Weave Magazine. They’ve decided to take my poem “Snake Oil,” which is a recasting of Christ as a sort of low-class con man.

I’m particularly excited about this acceptance because Weave is a new magazine; this will be their premiere issue. The editors, Margaret Bashaar and Laura Davis, seem to be young and funny, and judging by their contributors list for Issue #1, they have good taste in poetry. Sarah Sloat and Juliet Cook are names I recognize (happily) from Wicked Alice, among other places; Ivy Alvarez was among the 10 poets queried for this round of Nic Sebastian’s very thought-provoking Ten Questions series. There are a few other names that set off my Spidey-senses, though I can’t place exactly where I’ve seen their work. But I really think it’s bound to be a good journal, with innovative and engaging poetry.

And I’m really glad they took “Snake Oil.” I’ve been working for several months – almost a year, really – on this series of poems inspired by the Bible. I started the series last summer with “The Second Fall,” a retelling of the Garden of Eden that I’d never seen before. It was really an attempt to put myself in someone else’s shoes, and after I let go of the initial connections I was trying to make between real life and the page, I think the poem improved. Since then, I’ve had some success with this series: “Cain’s Confession” was published by Shit Creek Review; “Lot’s Daughters” was published by Boxcar Poetry Review (and subsequently won the Poem of the Issue Award), and now “Snake Oil” has found a home with Weave. I have something like eleven poems so far in this biblical series, in various stages of advancement (some are little more than sketches that need serious revision), and it’s especially encouraging to me to place these poems in journals.

I was concerned when I began this project that I might never see any success with it. Most writers, after all, find the Bible an easy inspiration. I wasn’t convinced that I was doing something different enough with it. But having grown up Catholic (and then spending nearly eight years heavily involved in an evangelical Church) means that the Bible left a pretty big impression on my subconscious. Even now, as a self-avowed agnostic who believes that humanity is way more important than divinity, my mind often automatically reverts to old bible stories in times of confusion or frustration. (Reach an impasse with a friend in a silly disagreement? I think of Solomon, who solved the two-moms-one-baby dilemma by threatening drastic action. Feeling like everyone is picking on me? I think of Moses, whose mother turned him loose in a basket in the river to avoid being killed by the Pharoah.) So it felt like an important direction for me to explore – what could I contribute to the universal conversation about faith, about one of the most studied and revered spiritual texts?

There are certainly some poets who do it way better than me – Amanda Auchter has a poem in the July/August issue of American Poetry Review based around Moses’ mother (Jochebed) which is fundamentally a solid concept. Carol Ann Duffy’s “Delilah” (from The World’s Wife) has me salivating with jealousy. And of course there are more. But it feels good to know there are people who appreciate my contribution to the conversation.

I’m in the process of putting together an application for Hedgebrook, a women-only writers retreat on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. If I am selected, I will be flying out West in the summer of 2009 for a two-week residency, during which time I’ll do nothing but write and read (limited internet, even!). My plan is to continue work on the series of biblical poems through the next year, and use the two weeks next summer to either complete the series or begin putting together a manuscript of them. The goal is a full-length manuscript (about 60 pages), but I don’t know how it will unfold.

So much remains to be seen. I’m feeling excited again.

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