Elevate Difference

NIV: 39 & 27

Hayes' new volume of poetry, NIV: 39&27 is theology that travels. Most people know a story of someone accosted at an airport with a copy of The Bhagavad Gita. Chris Kraus explains on the back cover that the Gideons have "place[d] bibles in motel rooms across America of the comfort of travelers who think they have reached the end of the road" since the nineteenth century. This book, also passed to me by hand, engages both texts, and read aloud, it evokes the resonance of ritual.

NIV: 39&27 is structured into a thirty-nine-line poem for each book of The Old Testament, one-line plates for _The Gita_, and a twenty-seven-line poem for each New Testament book. While each page is spare, the images are rich, inviting your mind to draw naked pictures of sin, suffering and redemption in the white space of the page.

Hayes' Old Testament G-d does his typical avenging but seems to be wearing a blindfold along with his sword. This is what we have asked for, and deserve: "the Lord, your God, destroys the land" (italics mine). Living and dead are engaged in struggle, and Hayes seems to acknowledge that they don't know why that is any more than we do. Instead, the struggle is a celebration of waste and excess, where the seven thin and fat cows I remember from my catechism days intermingle their numbers, and the result is that "His fierce word, anger, send fire into my bones, a net." As Hayes moves into _The Gita_, he seems to be criticizing his own austerity and presenting the idea that man creates this G-d.

In the Bible, we end with an apocalypse, a "happy ending" that reunites fallen mankind with G-d through the intervention of Christ. In Hayes' text, I don’t think Mom and Dad get back together: "the store house windows have poured out enough jewels to spare man's son." But there is hope; although "scripture is our enemy in the world," we can become "idols in the sight of knowledge."

Hayes' work both acknowledges the importance of the works he re-imagines and questions their power to shape the world. There are options, other doorways yet unopened because of the limitations we have put on ourselves. The beginning of the text recalls a command: "'Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving to you and fill your stomach with it.' So I ate it and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth."_ NIV: 39&27_ delivers on this promise.

Written by: H. V. Cramond, December 18th 2009

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