Local Washington writer Jeff Sypeck, author of Becoming Charlemagne, has released a book of poems giving voice to the National Cathedral’s best-loved and most fanciful carvings: its gargoyles and grotesques. Rooted in folklore and myth, inspired by medieval history and the Cathedral’s restorative grounds, the witty and lyrical musings of Looking Up awaken some of Washington’s most enigmatic residents, as in the poem “Façade”:
Behold the form: We found our faith in spires.
From balustrade to buttress, by design
We build upon the base of our desires.
The ape of human order we divine,
And carved creation lightly gives us praise.
On day and eve, proportion we impose:
The perfect sun sets perfectly ablaze
A thousand perfect petals on the rose;
An arch constrains the brunt of outward pride.
One hymn we hue: “Ennobling words are dear
In thee, all sacramental modes preside
In thee” as from the fading close I hear
a thing to tempt us out of rite and rhyme,
a sole cicada singing out of time.
Seventy-five percent of proceeds directly support the building’s preservation. Copies are available online at shop.cathedral.org.