Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cairns Explores Reality through Poetry

Scott Cairns is a 2006 recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, a prestigious prize awarded to those recognized with exceptional achievements and promise. The cash prize, which averaged $38,236 in 2005, allows winners to develop their work free from normal monetary constraints.

According to Richard Schwartz, dean of the University of Missouri's College of Arts and Science, “The competition for Guggenheims is keen in the extreme." He says that “The daunting ratio between applicants and recipients actually understates the reality, since this is the most coveted of awards and individuals propose their strongest possible research/creative endeavors for the competition, knowing all others are doing the same.”

Cairns used the award money to travel to Mount Athos, an Orthodox monastic community in Greece. Cairns' first three visits to Mount Athos were integral to starting and finishing his prose memoir. Life on Mount Athos, like life at many secluded monasteries, is not for the casual observer, but for the individual looking to experience the contemplative life.

In Recovered Body, Cairns explores Old Testament texts, attempting to recapture the binary distinctions or supplementary opposites that focus the biblical worldview. Cairns is always exploring Reality through his writing and one can't explore Reality without touching the bases of night-day, male-female, heaven-earth, good-evil, etc.

In an interview with Mars Hill Review, Cairns explained: "I'm not much interested in reducing my vocation as a poet to something like propagandist. I write poems to find things out, not to communicate some previously ossified conclusion. So, when it comes to Satan, I suppose I've come to suspect that there is a mostly malignant, if also banal, force at work in the world. It might be that what we read in the papers is just the end result of centuries of bad politics and bad economics, but it might also be that there is a person who works to cause bad politics, bad economics, and general cruelty."

I first learned of Scott Cairns' poetry from Mother Nectaria McLees, the International Editor of Road to Emmaus: A Journal of Orthodox Faith and Culture. I had seen his name months earlier on an online copy of an English translation of Manual of Patrology, which I believe he scanned.

Watch for more from this insightful writer and poet.

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