December 21, 2020

On The Misuse of Scripture: A Collection of Poems by Daniel Klawitter


One of Colorado’s most prolific writers of poetry, Daniel Klawitter’s latest book is a delightful collection of both pensive and humorous poems that have for their origin of inspiration verses from the sacred text of the Bible. He calls his newest collection, The Misuse of Scripture. In the collection, each poem is preceded by a quote from various places in the Old and New Testaments. The verses referenced are used as a sort of springboard for the poem that follows it. 

I remember in the late ‘90s studying a branch of epistemology known as semiotics. Semiotics has to do with the way the human mind interprets signs and symbols. Within the study was a concept known as ‘unlimited semiosis’, where an idea will trigger a chain of associated ideas which, as the chain progresses, eventually seem unrelated to the initial idea. I might see a star, for example, and be reminded of the nativity of Jesus, which might produce the thought of him on a cross, which in turn might trigger a thought of a burning cross, then imagery of the KKK, then recollections of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then John Kennedy, and so on. 

The interesting relationship that Daniel’s poems have with the Bible verses that precede them have a similar effect. Take for example his poem, Red Stuff. The quoted verse is from the Book of Genesis, chapter 25 verse 30.

And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee,

with that same red pottage; for I am faint. 

From this verse Daniel proceeds to write what he calls a “list” poem—a free association exercise that he wrote around Christmas 2017; a list of “red stuff I could think of that might fit.” The work is quite delightful, opening up with these lines:

Red snapper fish and red velvet cake—

The famous red apple; the slithering snake. 

The blood in God’s creatures—the sunset at dusk.

The Indian corn concealed in its husk. 

A fun and cognitively stimulating poem! Notice some of the Biblical references it opens up with?—the apple, the snake, God and his creation. I especially like the internal rhymes of lines 5 and 6, and the exceedingly humorous line 8:

The communist cadre—the red-headed girl.

The socialist padre—the Eurasian red squirrel. 

The crimson tide and the precious red rubies.

The color of nipples—on some people’s boobies. 

Haha … priceless.

Again, concerning the relationship between the Bible verse and the poem, Daniel goes on to explain, “The scripture verse itself is referring to a red lentil pottage...a kind of stew that Esau wanted to eat. So that poem is a good example of me using the scripture verse entirely for my own creative exercise without it being any kind of commentary at all on the verse itself (emphasis added).”

And so, you can see how the poem can stand alone by itself without ever having known that verses from the book of Genesis spawned itwhich, of course, they did. Hence the cryptic (and creative) title of his latest collection. Daniel goes on to affirm this relationship between verse and work by explaining that the poems “may have either a direct or more indirect relationship to the poems themselves. They are all a way of framing the poem that follows them, but I definitely take some liberties on occasion in interpreting those verses for my own purposes. Thus, the title of the book (The Misuse of Scripture) is a way to poke fun at myself as well.”  

On top of this—to elaborate on our poet’s particular style—this poem, although not written in a tight metrical foot, has a palpable ballad tempo to it that when read aloud causes one to recall some of Frost and Auden’s works. This primarily has to do with the poetic devices that Daniel uses when constructing lines like the ones we just read. Daniel does much more than insert internal rhymes to support the rhythm of the approaching end-rhymes. Remember lines 5 and 6? Note the obvious rhymes:

The communist cadre—the red-headed girl.

The socialist padre—the Eurasian red squirrel

Now notice the nearly alliterativeist’ in each line coupled with the nearly assonanteds’ that weave the two lines tightly together—and this apart from the aforementioned rhymes! 

The communist cadre—the red-head/ed girl.

The socialist padre—the Eurasian red squirrel.

These two lines are so densely riddled with rhythmic devices that it seems impossible to overlook (or underhear) their musical tempo when read aloud. Couple this with an interesting list of red things and you have yourself a rhythmically fun and good read. The rest of his 16 line poem follows:

The planet called Mars—the sports car for sale.
The fox in her den—your friend Abigail.
The stop sign on First St.—the pimple that popped.
Mao’s little red book—the tomato you dropped.
The cherries and peppers—the grapes on the vine.

The sweater for Christmas with its horrid design.
The cat in the window—your heart and your kidneys.
And good old St. Nick—coming down the red chimney. 


Again, Daniel’s use of scripture as a springboard may or may not produce a poetic work that refers to or relates itself ‘theologically’ back to the verse in question, but some works are certainly closer in topic than others. Let us take a look at another one of his works—a poem titled: For What It’s Worth. Here it is in its entirety: 

For What It’s Worth

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope:

—Romans 8:24

You flip the flashing coin—end over end—into the fountain. 

Sun strikes copper as you make your wish—the penny
Hits the water and sinks to the bottom. It is autumn
And all things are returning to earth. For what it’s worth
Your wishes have withered to a whimper. But when hope
Is a hard currency we remember a penny for our thoughts.

So many coins cast against gravity: terrestrial astronauts. 

In the opening notes of his book, Daniel states that his “hope is that [his poems] can be read fruitfully and with some measurement of enjoyment by almost anyone, including those with practically no familiarity with the Bible.” 

That statement certainly holds true for the poem above. Had I read this poem somewhere out in the world without having Romans 8:24 to precede it, I would have come up with roughly the same conclusion about the poem as I did when I first read it with the verse. That is to say, I would have concluded that the poem is suggesting that the tangible, ritualistic gesture of wishing upon a coin that you toss into a fountain is inferior to that of the raw, unassisted, intangible act of hope. The ‘act’ of wishing upon a coin, as the poem suggests, indicates that our “wishes have [already] withered to a whimper.” It is only the “hard currency” of hope in itself and by itself that is of any enduring value.

Notwithstanding, his use of Romans 8:24 as a ‘literary epigraph’ sheds light on and illuminates his poem. Either way the message is conveyed, whether one has knowledge of the Bible or not. Of course, I have to confess, when I read the opening verse from Romans I immediately remembered Hebrews 11:1, that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”, and this helped me appreciate Daniel’s poem all the more!

A quick note on some of the poetic devices Daniel uses in this work. This might be a total reach on my part, but I like that the poem conveys its message within seven linesseven signifying that which is sacred. I also like how line 1 and line 7 are complete sentences, as if bracketing in the more sensitive core of the poem. 

And let us look at that core. It consists of all enjambed lines. In poetry, enjambment occurs when a sentence in a line of poetry continues unimpeded by the end-rhyme (if the poem rhymes) while adhering to regular syntax. Often, when the sentence terminates or resolves, it does so roughly in the center of the following line rather than comfortably at the end. The next sentence then picks up where the previous one ended, and so on. Note how Daniel enjambs every line from 2 to 6 (highlighted in blue).

Sun strikes copper as you make your wishthe penny
Hits the water and sinks to the bottom. It is autumn
And all things are returning to earth. For what it’s worth
Your wishes have withered to a whimper. But when hope
Is a hard currency we remember a penny for our thoughts.

Note that line 6 is still an enjambed line since the sentence begins toward the end of line 5. And further note how Daniel exploits a couple of those enjambed lines by inserting rhymed words: 

Hits the water and sinks to the bottom. It is autumn
And all things are returning to earth. For what it’s worth

Hmm? I can not recall a poet exploiting enjambment with rhymed words. I also can not recall a poet tethering an enjambed line of poetry together by using alliteration, like Daniel does in line 5: 

Your wishes have withered to a whimper. But when hope 

Damn! Very cool. I could go on: there are just too many subtleties in Daniel’s works that it would require a volume or two just to cover a single one of his collections. To say the least, Mr. Klawitter is certainly—and in a rather stealthy way—a meticulous writer of poetry. 


As mentioned in the beginning of this post, The Misuse of Scripture contains poems both pensive and humorous: pensive and sobering like the poem, Grief is…; or humorously risqué like the poem, Yes, But Does He Write You Poetry?. Others border on didactical reproaches such as, My Homophobic Friend, and, I Hear That. Daniel’s poem, The Knowledge of Good & Evil, for some reason reminds me of Tracy Chapman’s song, Fast Car. Some of his other works are autobiographical, like, In Sickness and in Health, and, Fishing with Father. There is another little nugget in Daniel’s collection that I need to mention separately here. 

The Misuse of Scripture is divided into three parts: I, II and III. Parts I and III consist of all of Daniel’s well crafted poems. The whole of part II, however, consists of a ‘flash non-fiction’ piece that takes us back to the mid ‘90s when Daniel was working in the Philippines with a nonprofit, social justice organization. The story is not only about a true event, it is also suspenseful, humorous, and well written—and if you would like to know what happens, I left a link to his book in the right column.

Daniel Klawitter

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