I am not a student of theology. As Flannery O'Connor says in her note to the second edition of Wise Blood, I am "an author congenitally innocent of theory, but one with certain preoccupations." For the arguments of these poems, I lean heavily on the following sources: St. John of the Cross's redaction of The Dark Night of the Soul, Teresa of Avila's The Way of Perfection, Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ, Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life, and Thomas Merton's A Search for Solitude and New Seeds of Contemplation. For some of the details, I use Robin Smith's The Encyclopedia of Sexual Trivia and the internet, the price for which appears to be a lifetime of spam promising perfection.
From the book:
Everybody has a small penis somewhere.
You know a fellow down south
whose small penis is a frenum, so short
his neck gets sore when he licks all his whatevers-
an ice cream cone, say. Those round mounds wound him
because he must roll his whole head up
with the little bit of tongue he can expose.
Triple scoops defeat him.
Women grow miffed at him.
Another guy's fat and has a herniated outy,
which makes his cat pounce on his belly
and slap at the lump when he sleeps.
A few women have breasts that scream
Can you believe this?! I'm so sorry
you have to walk toward these on such a nice day.
A beggar's hands are small.
A nun has a couple of thoughts on her face.
Ah, Small Penis: Who does not curse
the curses they've been given,
their obvious ineptitudes?
You live in a land of odd pods.
Everybody has a small penis somewhere.
Your brothers and sisters, your homeland
and all it holds: They beg you-the irony!-
all your littleness and the world begs you for mercy.
They beg you not to notice them today.
Comments about His Longing:
I am grateful for the utter brilliance of this sequence. I am throwing no phony bouquets when I say that, on reading it, I felt, as someone once said, like putting my quill back in my goose. I for one can’t imagine a more suitable vehicle than the one he has found to honor the Lord. Like O'Connor, he manages to be funny, deeply reverent, judicious, and moving all in the same breaths. He is one of the best poets going.
--Sydney Lea, Poet, Editor, Essayist
I love the central conceit -- that hidden part of ourselves that just IS and makes us feel not big enough, not smart enough, not good enough. And the resolution of that by the last poem—it's really fantastic. The oratorio really takes hold and communicates a broader sense of just what it is, that essence of "not enoughness" in the face of earth and heaven.
--David DeWitt, Playwright. Paris, France
Comments about Paul Allen's performances:
Paul Allen was selected to perform in Sumter’s inaugural spoken-word series. Allen defined the term ‘performance poetry’ with his earthy, accessible lyrics and performance style. The audience responded with their raucous approval and unbridled enthusiasm.
--Booth Chilcutt, Sumter Opera House
A Paul Allen performance is a roundtrip ticket to a land where compassion is taught through “the man with the hardest belly,” and truth is found through “Metamucil in my cup.” In this land, one swings from thin wire between raucous, belligerent fits of laughter to whispers of heartache. Rest assured, the audience is safely returned, if slightly soiled, stained by Allen’s rare, keen revelations on life. The Paul Allen experience dazes the novice, dazzles the diehards. He has us wrapped around his little finger, over and over.
--Ellie Davis, coordinator, Monday Night Blues Series.
Born and reared in Selma, Alabama, Paul Allen lives in Charleston, SC, where he teaches poetry writing and writing song lyrics at The College of Charleston. His books include American Crawl, which received the Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, 1996 (University of North Texas Press, 1997).
His poems appear in a number of journals, including Southern Review, Northwest Review, Southern Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, Ontario Review, New England Review, Iowa Review, Puerto Del Sol. They also have been reprinted in several anthologies, among them Odd Angles of Heaven: Contemporary Poetry by People of Faith (Harold Shaw, Publishers, 1994); Real Things: An Anthology of Popular Culture in American Poetry (Indiana University Press, 1999); The Seagull Reader: Poetry (W. W. Norton, 2000), Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website (Sourcebooks, 2003).
He is twice recipient of a South Carolina Individual Artist Literary Fellowship.
Allen founded and directed the nationally known Charleston Writers’ Conference, which ran for nine years. He has given over 100 readings and performances in a dozen states and hasd twice received the South Carolina Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry.
His Longing is a 32 page hand-sewn chapbook - $7.00
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