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Poetry Moment: Meg Day and 'Batter My Heart, Transgender'd God'

Poet Meg Day

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Shara McCallum is this year’s Penn State Laureate.

Today’s poem is “Batter My Heart, Transgender’d God” by Meg Day.

Deaf, genderqueer poet Meg Day is the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level, from which today’s poem is drawn. Day is also the co-editor of Laura Hershey: On the Life & Work of an American Master. Recognition for Day’s poetry includes the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry. Day is Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

The 17th-century English poet John Donne is famous for a series of poems known as the “Holy Sonnets,” which dwell on the nature of faith and love. Donne’s sonnets are prized for their sonic richness, conceits (or extended metaphors), and ambiguity. One of these sonnets forms the basis for Day’s poem. Day hews not only to the sonnet form but to the syntax, phrasing, and diction of Donne’s original. By doing so, the poet goes beyond being inspired by Donne’s work. Day’s poem is grafted onto Donne’s, reinhabiting and reinventing his poem, subverting it even as it honors it. The subjects of Day’s poem reflect Donne’s obsessions with faith and love, but these too are recast. In Day’s address and pleas to a ‘transgender’d god,’ we hear the poet wrestling with the paradoxes of faith and fear, love and terror—writ in Day’s experiences and that of her transgendered ‘kin.’


Batter My Heart, Transgender’d God

Batter my heart, transgender’d god, for yours
is the only ear that hears: place fear in my heart
where faith has grown my senses dull & reassures
my blood that it will never spill. Show every part
to every stranger’s anger, surprise them with my drawers
full up of maps that lead to vacancies & chart
the distance from my pride, my core. Terror, do not depart
but nest in the hollows of my loins & keep me on all fours.
My knees, bring me to them; force my head to bow again.
Replay the murders of my kin until my mind’s made new;
let Adam’s bite obstruct my breath ’til I respire men
& press his rib against my throat until my lips turn blue.
You, O duo, O twin, whose likeness is kind: unwind my confidence
& noose it round your fist so I might know you in vivid impermanence.

That was “Batter My Heart, Transgender’d God” by Meg Day.
Thank you for sharing this moment of poetry with us today.

Shara McCallum was the 2021-22 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.
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