Home Campus BYU-I professor shares published poetry

BYU-I professor shares published poetry

Books with colored spines lined the shelves behind Mark Bennion, head of the English Department at BYU-Idaho, as he described his published poetry.

Black-framed glasses rested on his nose and pictures of his family adorned his desk. A large, golden-framed image of Jesus Christ hung on the wall behind him.

Bennion’s love for poetry began in third grade. He remembered a teacher who visited his class and held a writing workshop about poetry.

It was “the beauty of the language” that first attracted him to poetry.

When he attended high school, one of his teachers required students to memorize poetry. One particular poem Bennion remembered was Alfred Lord Tennyson’s, “Ulysses.”

Years later, he decided to take the next step in his poetry career by completing his own large collections. Bennion still remembers portions of that poem which piqued his love for poetry.

The first poetry book Bennion wrote was “Psalm & Selah: A Poetic Journey Through The Book of Mormon”. The poems in this book came when, in 2005, President Gordon B. Hinckley issued a challenge to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to finish reading the Book of Mormon before the end of the year.

Bennion accepted President Hinckley’s challenge and wrote poems as he did.

“I tried to create an imaginative backstory,” Bennion said. “What would these people have been thinking? So I wrote poems in their voices and expressed maybe some of their concerns and joys.”

The book took four years to complete and was published in 2009.

Bennion’s second book, “Forsythia”, is about his younger brother who passed away when Bennion was 6 years old. His brother was almost 3 years old.

“I wanted to write about his life,” Bennion said. “In part as a memorial for my parents and in part as a tribute to him.”

Years after Bennion began the collection, he and his wife had a son, named after his deceased brother. Bennion finished the collection and the book was published in 2013.

His final book, “Beneath the Falls”, was published in December 2020. Students enrolled in one of Bennion’s courses aided in the edits of the book as part of their course work.

One poem from his new book, “Silent Wednesday”, is as follows:

Silent Wednesday
Somehow in the strident ring
of markets and limestone
and the effervescent pulse of mid-morning,
the slosh of rejoinders and missed sales,
and the continuous niggling
of those who hunched over the law
like it was their final meal,
you avoided the press
of those trying to translate
miracles into Beelzebub and madness,
of those feigning melancholy
and rectitude among the masses
under the Mount Moriah sun.
You authored the final act
of scribal silence,
your own scroll
untainted, purer than gypsum,
waiting for the heft and diatribes,
taunts and spittle,
hanging
on for the slow march of prophecy,
the work of flesh and earth
alone in the will of the Father,
hidden away in Bethany,
girding yourself
for the coronation
to come.
(Originally appeared in BYU Studies Quarterly 55:3 and is located on pp. 49-50 of Beneath the Falls: poems.)

Each of Bennion’s books reflects what he holds close to his heart, including being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“To me, writing poetry really allows me to really think about my own discipleship, my own experiences and then I try to share them with others,” Bennion said.

He expressed his hope for those that read his poetry.

“I hope that this collection will be for both the beginning student of poetry and someone who likes to hear language and for those who are more advanced,” Bennion said.

Bennion’s books can be found at the David O. McKay Library, University Store or Amazon.

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