Missing the Point

At Westminster Abbey in England, they have a Poet’s Corner, because a lot of English poets were buried there (post-Reformation). Why? Because poets want to be buried close to Chaucer (who was pious as well as merry). Come the Resurrection, you’re among friends and you have your seniors to put in a word. Spenser started the trend (and being post-Reformation probably felt more need for help, poor guy). Occasionally memorial tablets and stones were put up by friends of poets who died somewhere far away (like Elizabeth Browning, who died in Italy) so that Londoners could remember and/or pray for them there, in lieu of visiting their too-far-away graves.

In St. John the Divine in New York City, they have an American Poet’s Corner that’s nothing but cenotaphs — because American poets aren’t buried there, and there’s nobody prominent whom they want to be buried near.

Okay, there is some method to the madness. More recently, the C of E people running the Abbey have been “honoring” people who aren’t buried there and didn’t want to be (like C.S. Lewis) by putting down “memorial tablets” and the like. But honestly, this isn’t Hollywood Boulevard. Tourists of the future won’t be clear on the distinction between a tablet and a grave. Today’s C of E doesn’t want people to pray for the dead. They want people to visit the Abbey and not to visit the places where people really are buried (and cover up the bad taste of previous ages in not asking truly great poets and writers to be buried in the Abbey), and they are therefore trying to change Poet’s Corner from a church burial into a Hall of Fame. So very creepy.

But just because the English are doing something stupid and presumptuous, doesn’t mean we have to do it too. Also, St. John the Divine is in New York City and not Washington D.C. It is not any kind of national cathedral. The freaking place isn’t even finished. I suppose they are raising money just like Hollywood Boulevard does, by making fans buy a place and pay for an “honor.”

Of course, Flannery O’Connor wouldn’t want to have been buried in St. John the Divine, because she is Catholic and it is Episcopal. The scheme of “honoring” people is something she would have thought was pretty stupid. Nor would she be alone. The list of American Poet’s Corner “inductees” is pretty much nothing but non-Episcopalians. But given how many weird anti-Christian things go on at St. John the Divine these days, I don’t think she would even want her fair name sullied by it being “honored” anywhere near there.

And God rest Madeleine L’Engle’s bones, but even when she died it hadn’t been the church she loved for a long, long time. Needless to say, they haven’t honored her, and she actually deserves it and would have wanted it. No doubt there will someday be a “we’re sorry” plaque instead.


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