Contemporary North American poetry as postsecular prayer

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University of New Brunswick
My thesis explores contemporary North American poetry as a form of postsecular prayer. I discuss works by Mary Szybist, Louise Glück, and bpNichol. These authors blend conventions of prayer from disparate religions with secular discourses to write poetic prayers that straddle the sacred and the secular. I explore Szybist’s fascination with personal prayer; I read Glück as a writer of communal prayer that finds common ground across religious and non-religious boundaries; finally, my chapter on Nichol examines what role form and language play in postsecular prayer. These three authors liberate prayer language from its religious roots and re-appropriate religious forms for secular self-discovery, healing, and the establishment of communities that transgress religious and secular boundaries. I track how these poets produce postsecular prayer, which is in many ways analogous to religious prayer in its objectives – to find meaning within and navigate an immense and uncontrollable world. I use postsecularism, which resists the dogmatism of both religious and secular doctrine to allow for contestability and pluralism, as my theoretical focus. This framework allows for the deconstruction of the religious, opening up possibilities for prayer as a means of spiritual growth for the individual. Through postsecular prayer, individuals and communities can find comfort despite the unknown and achieve collective understanding in the absence of an authoritative, religious divine.