Analysis and Interpretation of "The Preacher Ruminates: Behind the Sermon"
Gwendolyn Brooks' "The Preacher Ruminates: Behind the Sermon" gives an eerie look into a minister's mind. Indeed the poem's premise is made clear from the opening line: "It must be lonely to be God" (1). The poem proceeds to note that while God is a much-revered and respected figure, he has no equal. The preacher's revelation provides the reader a unique perspective into religion. Brooks points out due to God's position of omniscience, it is not possible for a figure like Him to have friends. Throughout Brooks' poem, the preacher implores the reader for answers to his questions, finally concluding that to be God is indeed a lonely life and that God must tire of it from time to time.
"The Preacher Ruminates: Behind the Sermon" is a lyrical poem. Indeed, the title itself lends evidence to the poem's genre. It brings forth the feelings and voice of a clear speaker: the preacher. The poem does not tell a story nor does it relate a series of events, further reinforcing the classification as a lyric. The poem is also closed form, made up of four quatrains, or four-line stanzas. The lines are a combination of run-on and end stopped lines that dictate the rhythm.
Brooks' word choices for both connotations and denotations shape the readers' understanding of the preacher. Upon first reading the poem, the only unfamiliar word I found was "hosannas" (3). The dictionary defines it "a cry of praise to God" ("Hosanna"). This is the only definition of the word that I was able to uncover, and with the overall religious discussion of the poem, it fits in with Brooks' overall topic. Brooks uses several references to praise in line with "hosannas" ...
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...s of " buy him a Coca Cola or a beer" (11) as a front to a much more somber message, namely that it is illustrating that to be God is to be friendlesswithout peer. Not being of Christian faith myself, I do not have a good insight into Christianity and its ideals, but the belief that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent certainly leads me to believe that Brooks' preacher is correct in saying that He has no equal. Thus, the poem delivers a haunting view into a different side of a figure that Christians worship each Sunday. As is evidenced by the preacher's thoughts, Brooks' poem illustrates that God is indeed "without a hand to hold" (16).
Brooks, Gwendolyn. "The Preacher Ruminates: Behind the Sermon". Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia, eds. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. New York: Pearson Longman, 2006. 500-1.
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