Original poem reprinted online here: Analysis of "Ministry Today" by Steve Davenport
Originally read: January 5, 2013
More information about the Poet: Steve Davenport
His Website Here
After reading this again today, I created a narrative of the speaker. Although the poem is lyric, the tone creates character. I've been thinking about tone, and I ask myself -- is tone like accents on the page? It's not exactly transferable, but I'm thinking of this. There's an image that pops up with a Southern drawl, maybe of a southern Louisiana gentlemen, and then from the accent (voice) I envision a person.
Now, in this poem, I really start to envision a person with the rhetorical question lines, "What's the value of time without end? / What's a mind to do without a body / to fail it?" and with the introduction of "whiskey" in earlier, I envision a lapsed priest sitting at a bar maybe drunk, maybe not -- but vulnerable enough to expose his failures and philosophy.
Why? Usually rhetorical questions work better in speeches, or in debates -- the speaker wants the audience to think; however, I've heard a lot of rhetorical questions in sermons "Why do you think Jesus died on the cross?" "Who will be the one to redeem your sins" to either a) start out the sermon or b) end the sermon. And since the rhetorical questions are at the end of the first stanza it feels like an end of a sermon.
Note though how the rhetorical questions have an implied "audience" or a "you." So when the speaker asks the question I wonder if he's questioning himself or the audience or god. All of the above, probably.
So I write this down as notes:
This poem is based on call and response where there are three parts:
1) Unknown -- Why is this event happening. (At stake)
2) Coping -- how to deal with the unknown physically. (Whiskey)
3) Questioning -- how to deal with the unknown mentally. (Rhetorical question/answer)
the response to the call within the poem
2) More Whiskey
3) "Waste of word"
I feel that this is the conclusion that the speaker goes through -- he tries to forgot his lapse in faith through time and whiskey, yet comes back to it at the end (which is either heavy handed or cleverly placed with the repetition of "end").
One last thing. I wrote this comment about the shifts in color, "The transition of colors -- not that strong for me, I like the images as they are" So the main reason for this, I think, is that I liked the characterization and the rhetorical questions so much that the color seemed too heavy handed for me. This is before I looked up what they mean.
So I looked it up. Here's the resource link
Blue, the color of the sky, is symbolic of heaven. It
may also be used to symbolize truth. Blue is gaining acceptance as a
liturgical color for Advent.
Gray is the color of ash, so is sometimes used to represent repentance and may be used during Lent.
As the color of light, yellow may be used to represent
divinity. However, because yellow light is not pure white, it may also
be used to symbolize corruption and degradation.
Yes, blue can also be the Blues (since the usage of the word references sound ) and, yes, yellow is not the equivalent of gold. But the colors are used in the poem. They are used bluntly as symbols. It does add some to the poem, but it's not the core to the poem (lament is there, a need to repent is there -- the yellow though is interesting and probably adds the most as a symbol, but c'mon it's whisky -- not the most holiest of all alcohols).