Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday Muse: Poet Kaylin Haught

God Says Yes to Me

I asked God if it was ok to be melodramaic
and she said yes
I asked her if it was okay to be short
and she said it sure is
I asked her if I could wear nail polish or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly what you want to
Thank God
I said
And is it even okay if I don't paragraph my letters
God said
who knows where she picked that up
what I'm telling you is
Yes Yes Yes
~ Kaylin Haught

Every so often something I've missed (and I'm sure there's a lot I've missed) on its first round or two online finds a way to rise to the top again. That's the case with a recent gift to me: text of the poem "God Says Yes to Me" by Oklahoma poet and writer Kaylin Haught. 

I had never heard of Haught and, ever curious, undertook to learn more about her. In my search I came across Julia Andersen's video conception of the poem, which she set to emo band Sleeping At Last's Households. (Watch the video below.) Andersen is the narrator of the videopoem.

God as portrayed in Haught's intimate poem resonates particularly with women and girls. Many find it inspirational, not the least because the language is so playful, familiar, and down to earth, like what a loving mother might say to her daughter, and especially because of that final "Yes Yes Yes": Aspire to anything; nothing is impossible! The poem delivers its sure message of affirmation — feel free to be. . . and to break the rules while you're at it — that is as current and relevant now as it was when Haught wrote its 16 lines. It's the kind of poem I imagine Canada's feminist prime minister Justin Trudeau would share with his three children, sons included.

"God Says Yes to Me" is in the late Steve Kowit's The Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop: A Lively and Illuminating Guide for the Practicing Poet (Tilbury House Publishers, 1995); the book is still in print. The poem was selected for the well-known project "Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools", hosted by former U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003) Billy Collins and sponsored by and now archived at the Library of Congress. The text appears online at the Library of Congress Website, where you can find also the full list of 180 poems. Collins edited and introduced his selections in the anthology Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry (Random House, 2003). 

In addition, composer Paul Carey set the poem to music (jazz, which was appropriate); access the audio at Carey's Website or go directly to the mp3 recording. Garrison Keillor selected the poem for his program The Writer's Almanac; audio is available at the link. Over the years, numerous other publications have featured or mentioned the poem in articles, including The Guardian, Ms. Magazine, the San Diego Reader, To Be Frank Magazine, and Huffington Post. It also can be found in the still-in-print Faith and Doubt: An Anthology of Poems (Henry Holt, 2007), edited by Patrice Vecchione.

Books that use Haught's poem include Healing the Purpose of Your Life (Paulist Press, 1999); Sacred Compass: The Way of Spiritual Discernment (Paraclete Press, 2012); When Words Heal: Writing Through Cancer (Frog Books, 2006); Life is a verb (Skirt!, 2008); The Giant Book of Poetry (Level 4 Press, 2010), edited by William Roetzheim; and Poetry to Make You Smile (Spruce, 2014). (All of these titles are in print or available electronically.) 

In addition to the books and magazines mentioned above, my search turned up journals, school texts, inspirational collections, teaching texts, a considerable number of blogs, including that of my friend Drew Myron at Off the Page, and sermons that have featured, quoted, or referenced this poem. Clearly, the poem is not obscure!

As for the poet herself, the extent of Haught's biography appears to be limited to a paragraph at This Island Press and a statement found in the credits of Vecchione's anthology Faith and Doubt: Haught, by her own admission, writes primarily, she says, in "self-chosen obscurity". I wish she'd come out from her hiding place.

1 comment:

drew said...

Oh, Maureen, I love this poem. It's been one of my faves. For years I've been on the hunt for more work from her; she's such a mystery too. And in this era of show & tell everything, I suppose her elusiveness makes her all the more intriguing.

Thank you!