Ryan Pendell’s work, Happiness is God, restructures biblical text into a powerful response to the theme of “destruction” and Lamentations 3:1-18.
1 I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. 2 He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. 3 Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. 4 My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. 5 He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail. 6 He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. 7 He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. 8 Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer. 9 He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked. 10 He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places. 11 He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate. 12 He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. 13 He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins. 14 I was a derision to all my people; and their song all the day. 15 He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood. 16 He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes. 17 And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. 18 And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD :
My theme is destruction. I selected a passage from Lamentations, in which the author weeps for the ruin of Jerusalem–yet with some hope (or at least faithfulness). I took the text and destroyed it. I cut it up into pieces. Then I tried to figure out what could come out of it. The poem exists in a liminal space; it hardly exists at all. I think of the Biblical text as a kind of environment that this text lives in, like an animal, an ecological niche, an endangered species. Like a lion alone.
Ryan Pendell received in his MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009. His poetry has appeared in literary journals nationwide. He is the managing editor of Silicon Prairie News and was an editor for the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska.