Poetry by Jill Peláez Baumgartner -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 19:3 (Summer 2005)
Article: Poetry by Jill Peláez Baumgartner
Author: Anonymous

Poetry by Jill Peláez Baumgartner

Pinning Down

Jill Peláez Baumgartner

JILL PELÁEZ BAUMGARTNER is Professor of English and Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. She received a BA from Emory University, an MA from Drake University and a PhD in Renaissance and Seventeenth-Century British Literature from Emory University. She previously taught at Valparaiso University and joined the Wheaton faculty in 1980. She is the author of Finding Cuba, a collection of poems that explores her Cuban ancestry, and two poetry chapbooks: Leaving Eden and Namings. She has also written a textbook/anthology, Poetry; and Flannery O’Conner: A Proper Scaring. She was a Fulbright fellow to Spain, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is the winner of the White Eagle Coffee Store Press’s poetry chapbook contest, the Goodman Award, an Illinois Arts Council Award, the Illinois Prize of the Rock River Poetry Contest, and the CCL Midwest Poetry Contest. She serves as poetry editor of The Christian Century and is past president of the Conference on Christianity and Literature.

My names, a drunkenness of vowels,
l’s, ümlauts, a mélange of ancestries,
diacritics, an unreasonable stretch
of signature, this seven-syllable
amalgam, this roughhouse of families,
this farrago of Spanish, English,
German, this gallimaufry
of tree gardener, medieval shrew,
Pelayo’s son, this rummage
sale of dactyl and anapest.

This, what I announce near the titles
of poems or at their endings,
on office door and syllabus,
name tags squeezing it into the exquisite
particularity of syllables.

To be envied: the orderly
timbre of Mary Smith
and its portable anonymity.

But here, now,
inextricably attached,
I stumble after, as my names,
roughshod, wheelless,
go galumphing on,
vowel-net unfurled,
all of my consonants pushing ahead
like a lopsided cow catcher.


Jill Peláez Baumgartner

Is it the transparency
and lift of air?
Is it release
as when the pebble
flings out of the slingshot
or the tethered dog
suddenly is without lead?

Or is it more like standing
on a dark beach
at midnight,
the surf loud
with its own revolution,
the horizon invisible,
the entire world the threat
of rushing water?
No one who swims
at night in the ocean
feels weightless
embracing armfuls of water
against the ballast
of the waves’ ...

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