Child: “Christian Scientists work in religious labs” and other senryu. A thanks to Dr. Robert Deluty
It’s not everyday that a poet includes you in a book dedication. So when Dr. Robert Deluty, a beloved colleague from UMBC, included me in the dedication for his latest book, A Mingled Yarn, I not only read the book, I devoured it! I’ve always loved poems and used to write my own elemenatary versions several years ago. (I extend a special thanks to my 10th grade English teacher at Plainfield High School, Ms. Mary Anne Lozak who taught me how to express thoughts and emotions through poetry.) As a thank you to Dr. Deluty, I thought that the best way to express my gratitude would be to write something about a few of my favorite poems in his book. It’s probably even more fun for me to write this online as a juxtaposition of our perspectives. A constant joke in the office circles around Dr. Deluty’s use of the always reliable physical black agenda/schedule book to which pen and paper rule, compared to my electronic dependence on the virtual Google Calendar, which I access from any one of my three mobile devices.
Most of the poems in Dr. Deluty’s book are “senryu,” a form of Japanese poetry that have three lines, in unryhmed phrases of 5 syllables, then 7 syllables, ending with 5 syllables. Deluty describes his poetry and the similarities and differences between haiku and senryu in a piece for Voices: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy, Journal of the American Academy of Psychotherapists, Fall 2003, Vol. 3, No. 3. In the article, “Connecting, Unburdening, and Enlightening: Reflections on Poetry and Psychotherapy,” Deluty writes:
I particularly enjoy writing haiku and senryu, three-lined poems that attempt to record the essence of a keenly recalled or observed moment. Traditional haiku and senryu consist of 17 Japanese “onji/sound-symbols” in phrases of 5/7/5. Since Japanese onji are not equivalent to English syllables, adaptations of haiku and senryu written in English are typically presented in three lines totaling fewer than 17 syllables (see Priebe, 1999). Whereas haiku are objective and deal with natural/seasonal events, senryu address human subjective situations and are often satiric, pathetic, or ironic (Priebe, 2000).
Sunday Thought – The Lab
It is here that I begin with one my favorite senryu in the book. As a scientist, and a Christian who grew up in a Baptist church, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the following on page 48:
a child assuming
Christian Scientists work
in religious labs
Of course, understanding how a child might not have yet been introduced to different religious beliefs such as Christian Science, this senryu tickled me on several levels. First, if you saw me on Friday, giving my presentation to nearly 100 students, with a 3-year old in tow in the Meyerhoff Chemistry Building, you can imagine that I was privy to lots of questions about science and labs. I also laughed at that one because I remember praying over many experiments, as a student, as a postdoc, and as a professor! My mantra was: “Lord, please let this work, please let this work, please let this work!” I would cheer with a “Thank you Lord” (sometimes aloud) when my code compiled without errors, so perhaps, despite the supposed separation of church and state, I had a religious lab.
The Whole Family
I love my family, and I love my brother’s wives as sisters, so a while ago, I started calling them my sisters, and skipping the “in-law” designation. Given this thought process, I laughed when I read this poem on page 53:
her child questioning
if an outlaw’s opposite
is an in-law
I remember many years ago when my brothers’ wives and my husband took a walk around my hometown in NJ with jokes about being “outlaws,” and introducing my brothers and I to new things that we could add to our lives that were good for us. (Some of these things were the healing power of afternoon naps, throwing things away, hanging out without a plan, and just good old-fashioned love for no good reason other than that you “are” and you’re “there.” I love them — my sisters: T, T, and B.)
Robert and I always joke about about food, his “protein-filled” peanut M&Ms versus my green juice, to which he says, “No to kale!” I teeter between being a vegan, a vegetarian, and a pescatarian, depending on the day, so I wonder if he inwardly laughed at/with me when he wrote the following senryu on page 36:
reading White Castle now sells
I have collections of “Deluty” books in my offices. One of them is seen below. The Deluty books are delightfully placed near my book on STEM gender equity, “La ventana en el rostro” – a book of poems in Spanish (a gift from a mentee who traveled to El Salvador), and my book on Astronomer Dr. Dorrit Hoffleit (1907-2007). Books make me happy. When I was young, I used to read books at night until the room was completely dark, and then I read with a flashlight until my parents told me to turn it off. Reading makes me happy, so much so, that some of my favorite recent gifts have been Amazon gift cards to feed my Kindle, and one of my favorite pastimes is going to bookstores in different cities to find old books. Putting the thoughts of happiness and books together, I will end this post by saying “thank you” to Dr. Deluty and sharing one of his poems on page 17:
a child answering
What’ll you be when grown up?
with I hope happy
A Mingled Yarn and Dr. Deluty’s other books are available for purchase in the UMBC Bookstore.