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Original Poem: "River God" with Commentary

Updated on April 15, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Whitewater River - Richmond, Indiana

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Indian Summer 1886

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Introduction and Text of Poem, "River God"

"River God" is an Italian influenced American sonnet. Rime is so subtle as to be virtually absent; the same can be observed of rhythm. The rime scheme may roughly be identified as, ABBAAADC in the octave and EEFGHH in the sestet, leaving much room for interpretation! The rhythm varies from trochees to iambs with several jolting turns to anapests.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

River God

Every spring along the Whitewater
I saw that some mysterious hand
Had rearranged the rocks and sand.
The path I followed the summer before
Was slipping off into the water.
I could not figure whose force could drive
That water among the reeds & shift its bed
& every spring draw me to its side.

Whose muscles uprooted those trees?
Whose fingers patterned those stones
Along the edge? I guessed
Only the spring thaw
Conjured up the changes
In those sleeping river images.

Whitewater River - Minnesota

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На Кушавере

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Commentary

Rivers have always fascinated the observant, for they hold the human being's essential nature of meandering to find the best place to land, to empty, to exist.

The intricate interweaving of Italian and American sonnet makes this an unusual poem in its form alone, but the content, subject matter makes it a less than typical journey of childhood to adulthood, from wondering and wandering to finally assuming the answer to an important question about creation and its Creator.

First Movement: A River Visit in Springtime

The first movement of this poem structurally displays in a cinquain, casually opening with the speaker reporting her experience with a river near which she lived as a child. In springtime as she visited the river, she was struck by the changes that had occurred in the river’s ecological situation. The river’s banks had changed, and the speaker assumes that some "mysterious hand / Had rearranged the rocks and sand."

She notes that where she had walked along the bank of the river just last summer was no longer there; it was now "slipping off into the water." For a young explorer, this change must have been somewhat startling, especially if she had not noticed such changes before.

Second Movement: A Puzzling Transformation

The second movement consists of a tercet wherein the speaker confesses that she had no idea how such a river has managed to change its many qualities. But notice that she implies that buried beneath the rubble of her life, she intuited that someone or something was doing this changing. After all, an inanimate ecological environment could not merely transform itself; it had to be directed by someone or something, didn’t it?

After all, the river environment had accomplished a complex task: it shifted in its bed, not following the exact channel as earlier, it meandered differently among reeds, and then it summoned the budding poet to come see what it had done.

Third Movement: Whom to Credit?

The sestet of the Italianesque American sonnet explores the specific questions that the speaker has been offered to explore: Who could have done all this? From uprooting trees to simply changing the configuration of "stones along the edge." Note that the speaker attributes "muscles" and "fingers" to the Perpetrator of these events, yet at this point in her evolution, she has no idea whether this creative entity has such features.

Fourth Movement: Guesswork

The speaker finally offers her thoughts at the time: she just figured, "it is what it is." Or more specifically, that as the winter season worked its magic of relenting to the "spring thaw," it just changed—something like the atheist’s banter of creation just appearing without a cause and without a Creator.

During the winter time, the river seems to sleep even as it keeps on moving—its environment of trees, bushes, grasses, rocks, paths, and other features at least seem to sleep. And for the youthful explorer, who probably had not even bothered to explore in winter, they were definitely asleep.

But in springtime, when the explorer goes exploring, the river comes alive again; it is in her imagination, it fills her lust for wandering, and it brings her to a state of awareness that sitting in the house doing schoolwork and the mundane tasks that a growing young girl might encounter would ordinarily seem so dull She blusters with questions: why on earth would her beloved river lose its path she had walked on just the summer before? What can she do but speculate? And wait, and wait, and wait for answers.

The Divine Answer

Note that the speaker has finally been blessed with the answer to her question: it is the River God, of course, who has caused all those changes. The reader of this poem will know from the beginning what the speaker did not know when she was first forming those questions, when she was first entertaining the strange notion that rivers change, when she was first observing one of the most important details of her life.

At the Windmill Chapel, SRF Lake Shrine

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Life Sketch of Linda Sue Grimes

The Windmill Chapel

In the temple of silence
By the lake, we sit
In stillness, meditating
In divine Bliss.

Returning to our daily minds,
We walk out into the sunshine,
And the flowers greet us.

The Literary Life

After graduating from Centerville Senior High School in Centerville, Indiana, in 1964, Linda Sue Grimes completed her baccalaureate degree with a major in German at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1967. She married Ronald Grimes on March 10, 1973.

As a writer, Grimes focuses on poetry, short fiction, politics, spirituality, and vegan/vegetarian cooking, which results in her original veggie recipes.

Literary Studies

Although music was her first love, Grimes considers herself primarily a literary specialist as she creates her own poetry, studies the poetry and literary arts of classic writers, and writes commentaries about classic poems.

However, Grimes does continue to express her love of music by writing her own original songs, which she records, accompanying herself on guitar or keyboard. She shares her musical compositions at SOUNDCLOUD.

After completing the PhD degree in British, American, and World Literature with a cognate in Rhetoric/Composition at Ball State University in 1987, Grimes taught English composition in the English Department at BSU as a contractual assistant professor from 1987 until 1999.

Publishing History

Grimes has published poems in many literary journals, including Sonoma Mandala, Rattle, and The Bellingham Review. She has published three books of poems: Singing in the Silence, Command Performance, and Turtle Woman & Other Poems, and a book of fables titled Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories.

Grimes published her first cookbook in the spring of 2013, titled The Rustic Veggie-Table: 100 Vegan Recipes. She is working on a second cookbook and her fourth book of poems.

At Owlcation, Grimes (Maya Shedd Temple) currently posts her poetry commentaries and her essays focusing on spirituality and politics. On LetterPile, she shares her creative writing of poems and short fiction, along with prose commentaries on each piece. She also posts recipes resulting from her experimental cooking of vegan/vegetarian dishes.

Spirituality

Linda Sue Grimes has been a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda and a member of his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, since 1978. A Kriyaban since 1979, she has completed the four Kriya Initiations, and she continues to study the teachings and practice the yoga techniques as taught by the great spiritual leader, who is considered to be the "Father of Yoga in the West."

Grimes practices the chants taught by the guru accompanying herself on the harmonium. She serves at her local SRF Meditation Group as one of the chant leaders.

Online Literary Presence

In addition to the contributions of her literary works to Owlcation, LetterPile, and SOUNDCLOUD, Grimes also curates her original creative literary pieces at her literary home, Maya Shedd Temple, on Medium, where she features her creative writing without commentaries.

Grimes also maintains an additional online presence on Facebook and Twitter.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
      Author

      Linda Sue Grimes 20 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks so much, Natalie! It's so good to have an old friend here. Best of everything for you and your writing! Blessings, Linda

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 20 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Beautiful poem, very useful and well written analysis. I have always admired your ability to communicate your thoughts via both poetic device and analytic explanation. Can't wait to read the next one and catch up on those I missed now that I've begun writing here!

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
      Author

      Linda Sue Grimes 2 years ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, whonu! Always appreciate feedback regarding my creative works. Have a blessed day!

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 2 years ago from United States

      Nice work my friend. Beautiful illustrations. whonu

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
      Author

      Linda Sue Grimes 2 years ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, Shadrack! I do appreciate your kind words. Have a blessed day!

    • Shadrack2 profile image

      Shadrack2 2 years ago

      Quite interesting. Well articulated indeed

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