Answering the Stars

It is my great pleasure to welcome Karise Gililland as a special All Nine guest blogger. Karise describes herself as a Texas mama, teacher, writer, and occasional cat wrangler/hamster hunter. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University. Grateful thanks to Dr. Holly Ordway for introducing us.


Image by Csaba Vero via
Image by Csaba Vero via

Answering the Stars

By Karise Gililland

What happens when a person meets a poem? While in the Master of Arts in Apologetics program at Houston Baptist University, our class was asked to respond to poetry selections from Malcolm Guite’s Stations of the Cross sonnets sequence in Sounding the Seasons, Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur” and “Pied Beauty”, and Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi”. As I was writing the response, I kept coming back to the idea that poetry ought to beget poetry. I experienced a sort of cognitive dissonance – I was saying that I should be responding with poetry but I was writing prose! So, I made the form match the function, the medium match the message, and rewrote the reflection in the form of a poem. (Then crossed my fingers and hoped my professor liked it!)


Answering the Stars

The problem with reading poetry is that-,

all the words come tumbling back out.

In an age with a desperate lack of wordsmiths,

keeping man from actual poems is strategic tact.

“a cold coming we had of it”[1], maybe

Others say, we’ll just stick to the facts:

Thermometer reads fifteen, the windchill lower than it,

The weatherman becomes our mundane poet laureate;

All storms move only in their degrees, points known,

Charts and graphs replace the need for saying,

“bitter breath of naked sky”[2] or “frosty wind made moan”[3]

or such superfluous, ridiculous word playing


One can’t postulate a poem with

five step, scientific method;

Beauty goes burning time and money, better spent.

Hypothesis, poets more and less than guess,

the science of pouring and mixing syllable to address

the things we don’t yet know we know:

“shining from shook foil”[4] also shows

in the rippling  rift of a song of nameless streets,

in wind-tossed, undulating streamers, glistening golden,

shot through with  sparks,  lit  from sea to crown to sky,

at the strike of seven on the salty sand, splattered by

gilded droplets sprayed and smelted  by stomping;

of a tumbling of leaves from tree to ground

in every falling season.

“Mine eyes have seen” [5]it; All men have been pupil to it.

Pride, demanding deposition, warrants

proof-text for substantiating glory; perplexed,

prosecution finds in itself unwitting witness.


“No longer at ease”[6], having seen, and words

Clamoring for release, they bang upon the door

Unleash the torrent, be no more dammed,

Spill the sonnet, “returning what was lent”[7],

“divinity and dust come face to face”[8] when words

like us,  released from perilous, stifling scheme

find themselves reorganized on nature, pounded out

like crosses from a tree, “beautiful, useless gesture of relief”[9],

from nebulous, dark death to bound immortality


The appropriate response to poetry is poetry.

How can the silence of the poets produce anything less

than cavernous questions, echoing meaninglessness?

The rocks will have to start singing if we don’t

soon start answering the stars.



1 T. S. Eliot “Journey of the Magi.”

2 “Lines: The Cold Earth Slept below” by Percy Bysshe Shelley .

3 “In the Bleak Midwinter” Christina Rossetti.

4  “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

5 “Battle Hymn of the Republic”

6 T. S. Eliot. “Journey of the Magi.”

7 Malcolm Guite “Prologue: Sounding the Seasons” In Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Church Year.

8 Malcolm Guite “Jesus Falls the first Time” In Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Church Year.

9 Malcolm Guite. “Jesus is laid in the tomb” In Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year.



3 thoughts on “Answering the Stars

  1. Don(nie) Braugh says:

    Bright, witty, verbose and elastic- this was brilliant work, Karisse G.! Congratulations. With an expectation of future blogs: Very nice!

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