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Poet Michael Whelan: "For the Love of God, God, Get Out of My Light!"

By       Message Marta Steele     Permalink
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Washington, DC Poet Michael Whelan
(Image by John Whitman)
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According to Washington, DC veteran poet Michael Whelan, steeped in the muses of Ireland's glorious verse tradition, the above line, quoted from his poem/biography A fter God, was inspired by an ancient legend:

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"Alexander the Great came to visit the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope. Alexander wanted to fulfill a wish for Diogenes and asked him what he desired. . . . According to the version recounted by Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes replied "Stand out of my light." [quotation from Wikipedia]

This tall, wirey, blue-eyed poet, who calls Washington, DC home, loves to explore his own contradictions:

Come home. / Just for tonight. / Tomorrow I will unbelieve you again. / But tonight come / fill / the hole / in / my soul.


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Still, I'd love to talk again / like way back / when you / were my / Imaginary Friend. / Or was it I / who was / Yours?

He "forgets he has blue eyes sometimes," though he loves quoting Bob Dylan's words to Frank Sinatra, "We have blue eyes; we can see into the stars."

The son of Irish Catholics who immigrated to Morningside Heights in New York City, where his father became a grocer and poet [with a sign "Blarney Spoken Here" in front of his cash register], Whelan is one of those few fortunate people who have written their life stories in a compact and portable form. In his case, it is a book of sequential poetry, Aft er God, narrating his life as a De La Salle Christian Brother--not to be confused with the militants depicted in James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man--who left the order of educators ["no priests, no mass"] to rejoin secular society in the sixties. There was a rushed exodus from Catholic asceticism and celibacy in the late sixties, he said, in the venue of the Vatican Council, the Vietnam war, the Summer of Love, and the encyclical of Pope Paul VI opposing birth control--a major upheaval.

He describes After God as a "spiritual memoir in verse," presenting events from his inner life in chronological sequence. He began his book of life at a writers' retreat in the Loire valley in France, spending three summers there to complete it.

He has found fulfillment in all of his work, he said. He loved monastic life, which he celebrated in his poem "A Genesis of Yes."

Go inside our classrooms: The zeitgeist / of the neighborhood seeps into the teaching. / This is a school where . . . your favorite English teacher is called / Brother Aelred. / I love the name sound. . . .

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But deeper than rationalizing whys, I feel a strange, alluring / irrational why. . . .

Now secularized, he still loves to return to monastic settings to write poetry in seclusion.

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for Opednews.com since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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