Poet's Pick April 25
John Donne: Holy Sonnets: "Batter my heart, three-person'd God"
Selected by Marcus Wicker
National Poetry Month 2018

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Marcus Wicker's Poetry Month Pick, April 25, 2018

Holy Sonnets: "Batter my heart, three-person'd God"
by John Donne (1572–1631)

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

 

* Marcus Wicker Comments:
I love that Donne’s speaker is both in love with God, and betrothed to God’s enemy: sin. The poem’s active descriptors—“batter,” “blow,” “burn,” “ravish”—are equal parts violent and sexy; a combination that, in concert with the sonnet’s meter, creates an ecstatic and unabashed tone. To my mind, “Batter my heart, three person’d God” is a perfect prayer. Perfect in the sense that I believe in its urgency.


About Marcus Wicker:
Marcus Wicker is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a Pushcart Prize, The Missouri Review's Miller Audio Prize, as well as fellowships from Cave Canem and the Fine Arts Work Center. His first collection Maybe the Saddest Thing (Harper Perennial) was a National Poetry Series winner. His second book, Silencer was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017. Both collections were finalists for an NAACP Image Award. Marcus teaches in the MFA program at the University of Memphis, and he is the poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review. Wicker's poems have appeared in The Nation, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Oxford American, and Boston Review.


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