A Testimony to True Father through Verse
Lloyd Howell, author of Remembering Father: A Poetic Tribute to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon gave a reading at the alumni conference at the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) during the UTS graduation on May 23, 2015. Below is a review of Lloyd Howell’s book.
A review of Remembering Father: A Poetic Tribute to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon
Contributed by Bob Selle
When I started reading Lloyd Howell’s new volume of poetry, I didn’t know what was in store for me. Through his poems, he took me on a wonderful journey from the tumultuous and confusing time of his young adulthood, through a number of his spiritual experiences after joining the Unification movement in 1975, through his experiences relating with True Father, to his deep sorrow over the loss of True Father upon his passing in 2012.
Many poets these days can be so terribly annoying. They selfishly demand that the reader chase their “deep,” elusive meaning in their deliberately ambiguous and intellectually bloated poetic ramblings. But if you’re into actually accessible and profoundly moving poetry—as well as spirituality—Lloyd’s work in Remembering Father: A Poetic Tribute to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon is a breath of fresh air.
The sentiments and poetic insights in Remembering Father are rooted in Lloyd’s Unificationist experience yet go beyond the boundaries of denomination and theology. They are universal to all of us as members of the human family. He touches on everything from our yearning for God, to earthy references to husband-wife love, to pathos over the paucity of love in his birth family, to tenderness and reverence toward a larger-than-life spiritual mentor.
It’s clear from his poetry that Lloyd often feels the presence of Father Moon—and of God—and that his work is rooted in this spiritual connection. In “The Scribe and the Key Master,” for example, Lloyd tells of rising in the wee hours of the morning and feeling an urgency to put pen to paper:
… I arise, feeling your presence –
you are putting keys in my hands,
I wonder whose hearts they will unlock.
I ask myself where would you have me go,
and to whom you would have me speak?
I hear a whisper –
“to everyone, everywhere.”
I grope in the dark for pencil and paper,
poised like an owl
straining to hear the static of your gravelly voice,
ready to scribble verses of your love;
your love, your love, your unforgettable love.
Lloyd feels, in fact, that True Father healed him, gave him rebirth, and is the wellspring of his life of faith. In “Moon Over Manhattan,” he writes of True Father:
… as your mystical light,
subtle as gossamer,
I bathed in it
healing my brokenness
and cried to feel
its inexplicable exquisiteness
then as the sun magically
draws life out of soil
you brightly blazed;
a high noon banishing shadow,
coaxing my soul from its shell
and I started to rejoice,
to dance in your rays
and still do to this day,
and to my very end
I’ll follow your transcendent ways
until we meet again on distant shores,
my face, God help me, smiling
ear-to-ear, rain or shine –
just like yours
Writing of relationships, in the family and otherwise, is not uncommon for Lloyd. In “Star Trek Woman,” for instance, written a few days after his marriage Blessing in 1982, he writes a paean of his love for his new wife:
amazing grace from outer space
flung all of a sudden into my face
trajected here through distant eons
now orbiting, probing this earthly form
your big eyes, your bright smile –
… oh this life, this life
I need someone like you for a wife
we drink the holy wine and in a short while
our lips accelerate into a smile
laughing, spinning light years away
I can’t tell night from day
I forget who I am and where I’m from
God I’m sure the kingdom’s come
Many of Lloyd’s poems are about True Father’s life. One such work, titled “The Passion at Hungnam – I,” recalls True Father’s two and a half years in a death camp in North Korea, to which he was consigned in 1948 by the homicidal communist regime in Pyongyang. In this place, political prisoners were sent to be worked to death:
Caught between the mortar and pestle
of forced labor and starvation
the prisoners were, day by day, ground down:
… Death strutting through Hungnam camp
like a vulture with trained eye
seeking the weak, the dispirited,
pulling the flesh off their bones,
ripping hope from their hearts
leaving them walking dead.
Lloyd focuses on another phase of True Father’s Life in “Got Him! (The Sentencing of Rev. Moon).” This is about what has been called True Father’s “bigoted” conviction on tax-evasion charges, despite evidence showing that thousands of other church leaders in America used the same banking procedure that True Father ultimately spent 13 months in federal prison for. The poem is heavy with irony:
… Expunge his name,
forbid it be spoken
in this our promised land.
to that Sun Myung Socrates Jesus Galileo Moon –
may his rise be on the wane
may he, like them, never be seen again.
After True Father ascended in 2012, Lloyd wrote many poems remembering him and grieving for him. A very short and simple one is “Longing”:
my longing for you
fills the emptiness
of your departure
Another is “Filial Children”:
… Father, you are gone but still present;
your words echo in our ears,
your blood moves through our veins,
our hearts beat in synchronicity –
we are forever your children.
Father, please save me a place
at the end of your long table –
the one that wraps around the world.
The book concludes with a bevy of poems of a general spiritual nature that touch upon such topics as personal spiritual growth, the peril of self-centered salvationism in contemporary Christianity, gratitude, and living in the present moment. For example, in “Forgetfulness,” Lloyd writes:
… Lift your hands to the skies.
Rejoice in the miracle of the mite,
the genius of the crow,
the saneness of the cow
the fallibility of man, the absoluteness of now.
And, don’t forget that Life is one big WOW!
All in all, I can emphatically say that these poetic works fed my spirit—and I think they would feed anyone’s, Unificationist or not.