"Without a Hand to Hold"
Analysis and Interpretation of "The Preacher Ruminates: Behind the Sermon"
Gwendolyn Brooks' "The Preacher Ruminates: Behind the Sermon" gives an eerie look into a minister's mind. Indeed the poem's premise is made clear from the opening line: "It must be lonely to be God" (1). The poem proceeds to note that while God is a much-revered and respected figure, he has no equal. The preacher's revelation provides the reader a unique perspective into religion. Brooks points out due to God's position of omniscience, it is not possible for a figure like Him to have friends. Throughout Brooks' poem, the preacher implores the reader for answers to his questions, finally concluding that to be God is indeed a lonely life and that God must tire of it from time to time.
"The Preacher Ruminates: Behind the Sermon" is a lyrical poem. Indeed, the title itself lends evidence to the poem's genre. It brings forth the feelings and voice of a clear speaker: the preacher. The poem does not tell a story nor does it relate a series of events, further reinforcing the classification as a lyric. The poem is also closed form, made up of four quatrains, or four-line stanzas. The lines are a combination of run-on and end stopped lines that dictate the rhythm.
Brooks' word choices for both connotations and denotations shape the readers' understanding of the preacher. Upon first reading the poem, the only unfamiliar word I found was "hosannas" (3). The dictionary defines it "a cry of praise to God" ("Hosanna"). This is the only definition of the word that I was able to uncover, and with the overall religious discussion of the poem, it fits in with Brooks' overall topic. Brooks uses several references to praise in line with "hosannas" after line 3, including "bright / Determined reverence of Sunday eyes", and "creatures running out / From servant-corners to acclaim, to shout / Appreciation" (3-8). Some of these words evoke very strong emotions. The word "reverence" makes me imagine a crowd of worshipping masses, as it means "feelings of deep respect or devotion" ("Reverence"). This is a rather obvious conclusion to draw, as the poem at its heart is very much about God's stature. One can assume that the preacher is probably not one to criticize God, given his profession, and thus the praise heaped upon God by the narrator is appropriate.
Moving past the very literal early parts of the poem, Brooks shows hints of playfulness, as he asks "But who walks with Him?" (9) and "[to] Buy him a Coca-Cola or a beer" (11). When I read the poem for the first time, I immediately wrote off the image of someone buying God a drink as completely ludicrous. Indeed, by simply laughing away the thought, I immediately prove Brooks' intended message: One does not buy God a Coca-Cola or a beer; he is above such trifles, and this is a sad thing. The imagery in this stanza is deceptively simple as although it seems to be very straightforward language, it causes the reader to...