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NPR Arts & Life

For A Student Of Theology, Poetry Reverberates

Nate Klug is a poet, translator and candidate for ordained ministry in the United Church of Christ. He lives in New Haven, Conn., where he studies at Yale Divinity School.
Nate Klug is a poet, translator and candidate for ordained ministry in the United Church of Christ. He lives in New Haven, Conn., where he studies at Yale Divinity School.

April is National Poetry Month, and NPR is celebrating by asking young poets what poetry means to them. This week, Weekend Editionspeaks with Nate Klug, whose poems have appeared in Poetry, Threepenny Reviewand other journals. Klug is also a master of divinity candidate at the Yale Divinity School and a candidate for ordination in the United Church of Christ. "It's nice to go home from a day of thinking about the church to this whole other world of poetry," he says. "But obviously there are some really amazing ways that they intersect."


Interview Highlights

On the interplay between poetry and spirituality

"I read a lot of theology, both for my degree and for my professional track, and sometimes I think poetry, whether or not it's explicitly religious, is one of the best modes that theology, or talking about God, can take. ... Poetry is a form where the language is under so much pressure, and that can really bring about these wonderful surprises and insights in our ways of talking about God or thinking about our faith."

On writing poems that speak to people

"I don't usually have a particular person in mind when I'm in the act of writing, but there have been people that I know my poems have spoken to, and that's always wonderful. A year or two ago I got a letter from a poetry student in Ireland, and I think he was also interested in spirituality and faith. And he just sent me this letter out of the blue saying that he had read a poem or two of mine, and that was really cool to know that on occasion there are these connections where someone picks up a poem and it really speaks to them, or they find something in it that drives their own work or their own thinking. Because that's certainly happened to me with other poets."

On the poem 'Mercy'

"It's a short poem, but it took me, I think, over a year to finally finish. I was also working as a chaplain at a hospital in Bridgeport, and the final image in this poem is one of a hospital television sort of flickering endlessly. So that is something that I drew from my experience."


'Mercy'

Its water-torture-slow
wend in me. Its work

like the reverse of work.
No wonder human

praise won't stick.
No wonder anger's

more often summoned,
its hum, ready-made,

that steadies my head
like hospital television,

throwing blue rumor
for hours at no one.


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