For those familiar with literary and rhetorical devices, anaphora—the deliberate repetition of a word or phrase—is a familiar strategy, one that both assists textual coherence and draws uncommon attention to the repeated terms. One might recall profound examples of anaphora in biblical poetry and more recently in the Bible-inflected orations of Martin Luther King.
Less familiar, perhaps, is the use of the term in liturgical Eucharistic settings. Named for the prayer that accompanies the preparation of the Eucharist—a prayer whose structure often employs formal anaphora—the term has come to indicate as well the specific liturgical moment when the elements—the bread and wine—are consecrated, when they become what we in the Eastern Church are pleased to call the Holy Mysteries.
While certain of the poems in this collection employ overt anaphora, many do not. I trust, however, that most will invite a sense of words as doing more than naming, more than serving as arrows pointing to prior substance; I trust that, at least intermittently, these words may acquire due substance of their own, partaking of more than is apparent, the more that is nonetheless so, and is present.
Opening the TextThe limen and the choppy line continue
their provocative confusions at the shore.
The limen and the chattering line obtain a pulse
as yet absorbing at the shore.
The παραλία, as expected, keeps the sea at bay,
and we embark from it intent upon what late
familiar measures we might find meet concerning
how we push our laden coracle once more
into the morning mist. Sublimity proves compelling,
as a rule, and implicates a matter apprehended,
albeit ever out of view, ever unavailable. Consider it
as figure for what trembling joy you felt
when, as a child, you stood before the blue Pacific
and beheld what seemed a pulsing stillness
far beyond the roar, or when you walked
through low cloud swirling at the ridge, or when
the great elk raised its massive head from undergrowth
to meet your open eye with his.
Excerpted from Anaphora: Poems by Scott Cairns