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In a multi-faith landscape, this book reveals how sexuality and spirituality are intimately related, 
and how the poetic form can propel the journey by which this truth can be discovered afresh.

SECOND EDITION expected in 2024

The poetic form does not merely contain a sentiment as a glass contains water. Rather speak of the grail containing wine; the meaning of each is intensified by the other. In poetry the form and the sentment are as intimately related as the body and soul.

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Thanks for Noticing: 
The Interpretation of Desire

Charlie Kreiner dedication

Description of the Book_Bio Foreword_
Back Cover Praise_________All Pre-Pub Praise
Table of Contents_________Publication data
_How to Read a Sonnet PDF_   __Glosses

_Next Event_Blog__Reader Comments
_Interviews_Theological Concordance


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Author's Description of the Book

Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire is a collection of 154 original sonnets and glosses. Shakespeare’s Sonnets number 154 and I want to be compared to the best. 

Lovers of all kinds turn to Shakespeare for his depth of emotion and richness of thought, even though most of the sonnets were written to a beautiful young man and some to a mysterious dark lady. With copious commentary, these fresh sonnets similarly range through many moods from youthful folly to maturity, from infatuation to insight, often with images from the world‘s religions, to explore the sacred beauty of sex and love. Because the sonnets are arranged by parts of the Mass, and identify the spiritual with the erotic, some may consider the book blasphemous.

     Epigraphs (from Catullus to Steely Dan) introduce most sonnets, and notes explain terms and allusions from many spiritual and philosophical traditions (A to Z, American Indian to Zoroastrian, Fa Tsang to Paul Tillich, Nagarjuna to Wittgenstein). Notes also explain references to science (xylem tissue to the Higgs boson).

     The book begins with a Frontispiece (a tune I’ve written for one of the sonnets), a Foreword, and an Introduction (10,000 words about desire, love, sex, and the sonnet form). Appendices outline how these sonnets fit into an overview of world religions and describe the historical circumstances of Shakespeare’s sonnets. An author’s biographical sketch and several testimonials are included. Hebrew texts such as Jeremiah, Dante’s La Vita Nuova, T S Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” and Nabokov’s Pale Fire are precedents for this mix of poetry and prose.

     April 26, 2014 was the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's baptism (his birth date is unknown), and this book is a way of honoring Shakespeare's own struggles with his beloved young man and the mysterous dark lady. 

The book's market includes readers of poetry, LGBTQIA literature, gender studies, and world religions. 

The particular approach to sexuality and spirituality might be summarized this way:
     1. Sexual desire can be an engine by which we come to know others profoundly.
     2. The desire to know others is a way of knowing God.
     3. Paradoxically, such knowing is possible only by abandoning desires.
     4. Sexual desires are far too rich, varied, mutable to be described by "orientation" categories. 

Vern Barnet

For eighteen years the professional weekly religion columnist for The Kansas City Star, Vern Barnet has been honored by Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and other groups. With three others, he wrote and edited the 740-page Essential Guide to Religious Traditions and Spirituality for Health Care Providers, published by Radcliffe in 2013. His articles, reviews, and poems have appeared in many publications.  His interest in poetry was heightened as an undergraduate when he studied with US Poet Laureate Karl Shapiro.

He has taught world religions and related subjects at several universities and seminaries, and served on the faculty of the nation’s first “Interfaith Academies” sponsored by Harvard University’s Pluralism Project and Religions for Peace-USA. He has been featured in national media, including a half-hour CBS-TV special in 2002. His civic activities have  been recognized with local and national awards, and a “Vern Barnet Interfaith Service Award” is given to a distinguished Kansas Citian each year.

He completed his doctoral work in 1970 at the University of Chicago and the Meadville-Lombard Theological School where he studied with historian of religion Mircea Eliade. Ordained a Unitarian Universalist minister, he served parishes in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Kansas before dedicating his career to interfaith understanding in the Kansas City area.

Now minister emeritus of the Center for Religious Experience and Study (“CRES”), which he founded in 1982, he is an active Episcopalian layman. Harvard’s Pluralism Project profiles him on its website:
A full biography appears at

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Pre-publication Endorsements
*Mark Belletini  *Alvin L Brooks  *Cynthia Clark Campbell  *Sunyananda Dharma  *Tom Fox  *Larry Guillot 
*Jerry Harrington  *Mark E Hoelter  *Robert H Meneilly  *Robert N Minor  *David E Nelson  *Donna Ryan
*Paul R Smith  *Susan Sommer  *Bill Tammeus  *Dean E Thompson  *Gerald Trimble  *Charles B Wheeler


WHAT Vern Barnet has somehow managed to do in Thanks for Noticing is to produce remarkably evocative and provocative poetry even while sending the readers off to interfaith graduate school.
     The sonnets are richly textured, surprising, profane, uplifting and revelatory. They certainly stand on their own without apology or explanation. But Vern was wise enough to include for each one careful footnotes to help readers get the references, the metaphors, the indirections.
     This is not material that will compete with hard rock or rap music, TV sitcoms, two-star-rated action films, light summer mystery novels or any of the rest of the often-tedious offerings of pop culture. Rather, it soars above all that and invites readers to ride along into frank considerations of sexuality, desire, love, and spirituality. The ride will leave you breathless, spent.

—Bill Tammeus, recipient of many awards, including from the American Academy of Religion and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. His books include A Gift of Meaning and They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust. Formerly with the Faith section of The Kansas City Star, he now writes for The Presbyterian Outlookand the National Catholic Reporter

 WHEN I started reading Vern Barnet’s sonnets, I was uncomfortable — the words are so graphic, so erotic, so real, so blatant. I wondered if I dare share this collection with close friends — would I, a heterosexual male, be embarrassed? So I read them again, and the notes, and reread the Introduction; and Vern’s honesty about sacred sexuality moved me, at times, to tears. Perhaps these sonnets will help to release our culture from the grip of selfish love and secularized sex so we can more deeply appreciate the holy gifts of love and sexuality.

—The Reverend David E Nelson, DMin
former pastor, St James Lutheran Church, Kansas City, MO; Appreciative Inquiry Coach, The Human Agenda

THANKS for Noticingis a revelation — and a tour de force — unique in lyricism about the love of one man for another. Vern Barnet’s 154 sonnets are supported by an extraordinary framework of epigrams and notes rich in the lore of many religions, cultures, and mythology over thousands of years. The sonnets’ sexual explicitness might be read at several levels: as an intimate sharing of experiences and reflections over a lifetime; as vicarious opportunities to love another person; or, if one is comfortable mixing sexual imagery with religious dialects while conceiving of God as both within oneself and as the great mystery of reality without, then also as an expression of divine love. 

—Larry Guillot, Roman Catholic, Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council advisor and facilitator of the Sacred Texts Book Club, retired nonprofit manager, former dean, Park University graduate school

THROUGH the lenses of the world religions, Vern Barnet’s one hundred and fifty-four original sonnets intimately and comprehensively explore the broad theme of love in the subtle light of sanctifying attentiveness, a focus in Buddhist teaching. “Simply beholding, without agenda, is the only way we can truly see [and love] another person” — this I underlined in the Introduction, even before I got to the sonnets.
     The sonnets themselves are accompanied by epigrams and extensive footnotes to map the intricate web of double entendre and esoteric nods masterfully woven throughout the book. 
     As I read these pages, often just two or three sonnets at a sitting, I sometimes resisted phrases and ideas even though I thought I had dealt with such issues; the sonnets gave me new opportunities to more fully discharge the power of rigid assumptions. With scholarly and experiential homage to many spiritual languages, this superbly composed offering will challenge, enchant, and enthrall both the ordinary reader and the erudite, and suggest that the sensual person may also be the mystic. 

    ——Sunyananda Dharma, Guiding Teacher of the Dharmakaya Buddhist Association

I KNOW Vern as a fellow minister whose presence always expands my consciousness way past my Southern Baptist history. I often thank him for his ministry as a kind of unofficial (and sometimes official) host in Kansas City and beyond for all spiritual paths. I like his sense of respect for my spiritual journey, the same I know he gives all others. I commend this gracious man to you.
    I get excited whenever anyone blends the spiritual and the erotic, which of course, have always been blended until we unmixed them. If you want an education in world religions while rummaging through the rooms and closets of love and sexuality, these are for you.
    Ten years ago I held a traditional position that gay love was simply wrong. Then I read the Bible again, realized I had totally misread all it said, and didn’t say, about homosexuality. So I repented (what a good Baptist word), and led my Southern Baptist Church to welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. What a wonderful adventure it has been in embracing God’s wonderful variety of sexual creation. Michael Bronski writes in The Pleasure Principle, “It is the idea, the concept of homosexuality — that is, sexual pleasure without justification or consequences — that terrifies the gay hater.” So these sonnets make a sensitive social statement also — the liberation into freedom which Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, lived, died, and rose again for.
    I wrote down some of my reactions as I embraced and sometimes wrestled with these sonnets: “Classy. Erotic. Whoa! Hmmm. Whew! I shouldn’t be alone right now. You’ve got to be kidding! Fun. I don’t get that one. Too esoteric for me. Wow! I’m not ready for that. How beautiful. Yes, yes.”
    And finally, if you want something to read to your lover, to open new vistas in your relationship, here it is. 

—The Rev Paul R. Smith, 
Southern Baptist pastor, Kansas City, MO

AN EARLY CONNECTION with Vern Barnet was a shared interest in the Islamic and Middle-Eastern roots of our “Western Civilization” and  the open secret of this centuries-long cultural interchange.
     Whereas my primary interest was musical, Vern's was poetic (the two have only recently come to be considered separate fields). What he has done within his discipline, I would like to do as successfully and seamlessly in mine. 
     This poetry rests on a bedrock that runs from the ancient world through the Sufi masters of the Middle Ages to the European Renaissance — and I refer to the poetic content and well as form. 
     People of all persuasions should read this. These poems reveal a universal expression of desire. The notes provide a brilliantly compact education in the sonnet tradition. 

—Gerald Trimble, Celtic world music performer.

MANY of William Shakespeare’s sonnets were written to a young man he loved. Although famous now for his plays, his longer poems, like “Venus and Adonis,” are what  made him immortal in his own day. But among his friends, his smaller, tighter poems, the sonnets were passed around first,  which I think fitting for such intimate works. And these shorter poems are the very hands which open a window into his deeper heart more than anything else he wrote. Many modern critics dismiss the erotic content of those sonnets by insisting that men just used more colorful language in those days, meaning, “It’s not really erotic.” But when I as a gay man first read them, it was impossible for me to see how anyone could see them as un-erotic. I felt more at home in my own skin just reading them. I felt relieved. They surprised me and seized me totally.
     Michaelangelo Buonorotti wrote many sonnets to beautiful men, even though he was clearly tormented personally by his same gender attractions because of the ferocity of his religious wrestling. But when he died, his embarrassed nephew simply changed all the male references to female references, so that the vividness of his uncle’s gay passion would not end up tainting him.
    In the twentieth century, things began to civilize, and you find poets like the great James Broughton, who used erotic language in his poetry that many formerly would have considered crude or raw, but which Broughton mighty heart served up both playfully and nonchalantly, refusing to give our received American puritanism the time of day.
    Today, Vern Barnet steps into the same stream of love and longing with his sonnets, Thanks for Noticing. In these poems, he crafts in words something of what Bernini crafted in stone with his sculpture of St Theresa in Ecstasy, found in the Capella Cornaro in Roma. The spiritual and the erotic, love and limerance, the luminous and the flesh united into one Reality. And with Vern, the intellectual also unites with the beautiful. The historical settings he weaves into his sonnets hold fast to showcase the jewel of his present ardor.
     With Broughton, he refuses to give puritanism any final say. Like Michaelangelo and Shakespeare, he is faithful to the pleasures of strict form. And like me, he does not seem to be able to separate the worship of the sublime in a sanctuary with the worship in the bedroom. Nor is the twin meaning of the ancient blessing “This is my body” lost on him.
    Read the poems without the commentary first, and then go back and take in the notes. And rejoice that beauty, after years of puritan exile, is now the equal again of truth and goodness.

     —The Reverend Mark Belletini, DD, who chaired the Unitarian Universalist hymnbook commission; author of Sonata for Voice and Silence and Nothing Gold Can Stay.

CONTEMPORARY American Culture has secularized the sacred when it comes to love and sexuality. Vern has employed the unique sonnet style with a fine artistry to express the sacredness of what it is to be created by God, in “the image of God,” and “but a little lower than God.” 
    While I do not pretend to understand homosexual or bisexual orientation any more than homosexual neighbors can understand the heterosexual orientation, I do know that whatever one’s gender the human being seeks and needs intimacy with another human being. 
    Who can judge how genuine love expresses the needed intimacy? While the author employs some vocabulary foreign to my own inherited taste, the words express for him the beauty and sacredness of unadulterated love — love that includes mutual respect, affection, and care for one another.
    These sonnets have allowed me to explore certain depths of truth and life I never could have fathomed before, whether I can fully empathize with them at this moment or not. 

—The Reverend Robert H Meneilly, DD, minister emeritus, The Village [Presbyterian] Church, Prairie Village, KS

Dear Vern, As a friend and fellow Shakespeare lover (I quote him in my closing arguments as a trial lawyer), you asked me to read your book of sonnets in the Shakespearean tradition.  I have done so and must briefly comment, unlike Polonius!
     I was thoroughly impressed with your work and found the sonnets quite worthy. Particularly, your scholarship with respect to world religions surely enriched the sonnets and the reader’s understanding of human nature in unexpected ways. Your other reviewers’ notes add value in the glosses and commentary provided by a wide array of persons.
      Because of your time devoted to the beautiful eliciting of love (homoerotic) it is now dispositive same sex couples can legally marry as of June 26, 2015; in Obergefell the Supreme Court has spoken. There is yet much to do legally in terms of anti-discrimination laws to carry that recognition forward, but I think your work should be read and studied to help promote that effort. 

      —Cynthia Clark Campbell, Campbell Law Firm

Vern Barnet has long been a leader in Kansas City, promoting interfaith  understanding. I am glad he uses his knowledge of world religions to advance discussions, even of controversial areas, including the powerful emotions of love and spirituality.

—Alvin L. Brooks, former City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem of Kansas City, MO, founder of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime


MY FRIEND, Vern Barnet, is indeed the trickster. He who says, “No boxes can contain love’s sacred play,” smiles, winks, does a backward somersault, turns the corner, and we follow and catch him jamming appendages of love’s sacred play into sonnet boxes.
     It is tempting to say that our society has cheapened the word “Love” by inflating it. But perhaps it would be more accurate to diagnose that rather our society has deflated not only the word “love” but the very act of it.
    Vern vocalizes a modest response to the deflation: “I hope this book [of sonnets] encourages some to find appropriate ways to honor friends and communicate how we feel . . . .” He turns trickster again, for he follows that so-American Gothic expression of hope with some immodest word wildings. And, most wild, it’s clear that he’s lived what he writes and what he writes lives him.
     Fred Craddock, a famous teacher of preaching at Emory University, says, “There are times when the language of excess is the only right language. You would rightly flee from the would-be lover who says only, ‘I have an intense attraction to you.’ But you might have swooned to the lover who first said ‘You are the wind beneath my wings.’” 
     But these sonnets go beyond merely “the language of excess.” Vern Barnet clearly has romped, not unlike King David, who danced naked in front of ancient Israel’s sacred Ark of the Covenant, his genitals exposed, and yet, according to the Torah, pleasing God. 
     Or, switching religious analogies, Vern has followed the directive of his own beloved “Heart Sutra,” and followed it in tantric devotion: Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate . . . . (“Gone, gone, gone beyond, beyond the beyond”).
     If the English Bard is in these sonnets spiritually, so also is the American Bard, Walt Whitman. Whitman also thought the electric pulse of life cannot be contained in tight little category-boxes. By his life and by his verse he caused people to wonder and still leaves people wondering: was he gay or bi or somehow beyond those sexual categories? 
     I am partial to my friend and to his sonnets. One is dedicated to me, after all ("The Call"), and its closing sestet was (and is) as prophetic a pronouncement as I received upon my ordination into Unitarian Universalist ministry — Nathan’s “Thou art the man!” to King David, but turned positive for my ordination.
     I am partial to particular lines in these sonnets.
   Love, noncompulsive, nonpossessive, true, 
     rejoicing in your wide passions and reach . . . .
For me, that’s far better than the old term (now become clich?): “unconditional love.”
   I’ve come to this island where I don’t care 
     if you love me, though now I see your love runs 
     clear through me. . . .
If I haven’t at sometime been on that island, don’t I want to be?
   . . . as flesh in spirit / moves . . . .
What a grand reversal, instead of the usual “spirit in flesh”!
     I long for you like blood needs breath when
     bones are traveling fast. . . .
Any runner’s or former runner’s legs will ache with memory at that line. My friend turns the experience transparent to the transcendent.
And who could keep from smiling, chuckling … no, actually guffawing at Vern’s poetic pun:
   You dance flamenco in my ass; olé?!
Surely even the English Bard chortles in his grave at that one.
     I am partial to whole poems, too: to the humor turning sublime in "Kitchen Cockroach" (I’ve fried more than one Kansas City cockroach thus myself, but with lesser reflection); to the “torqued down neat” engine imagery in "Acropolis Canon"; to the uniquely challenging title poem, "Thanks for Noticing", to the chameleon "Toledo: Summit" (it changes color and meaning each time I read it).
     I am partial to the suffusing impulse in every line, an impulse which I hear as, “Beloved reader, dear friend, do not let yourself stop or be stopped at anything less than fully making love — with desire — to every moment and every life form. And be serious about it. Be very, very serious . . . but not-too-serious.”
      Two poems are key for me, both closing and opening the collection at the same time. I especially commend them to all. They are, first, "Seasoning" (“Our holy season’s sex is over . . . .”) and, second,  the "Closing Instruction": “Reader, learn your own union from your rift. . . . [D]raw close . . . and close remain.”
     So I thank my long-time friend, Vern Barnet, for sharing these poems from his heart and soul with such courage. I return now to the Zen Buddhist “Heart Sutra” ending — “Gate, gate, paragate parasamgate” — which I shall now translate, “Go beyond, way beyond, thoroughly beyond.” In his living and loving, and wonderfully in the poetic “boxes” of these sonnets, he has done just that — gone beyond the little boxes into which we so often try to stuff our sexuality, our love, our life, our spirit. too.
    These sonnets tickle, shock and teach; they engage, expand and satisfy with multiple readings. There is more in them, I think, than even Will or Walt could put there; more perhaps even than Vern himself has put there.
     May all who read them delight in them until “something holier doth obtain.” 

—The Rev Mark E Hoelter, Washington, DC.  Unitarian Universalist Community Minister and Certified professional coach, International Coaches Federation 

IN A SOCIETY which conditions men that closeness can only be experienced in THE act of sex, Vern Barnet in his earlier and gently pioneering Love Without Desire, spoke to us with style and grace of love, closeness, healing attention, friendship and agape. Here again we see the pioneer use the sonnet to evoke thoughts, feelings, questions, and healing, calling us to a journey that explores both old and new territory through truly "beholding" the ones we meet on the frontiers of that journey. 

—Robert N Minor, PhD, University of Kansas Religious Studies, formerly chair of the Department; author, Scared Straight, Bhagavad-Gita: An Exegetical Commentary, and six other books

STATELY plump Buck Milligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.  A yellow dressing gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him.  He held the bowl above and intoned, “Introibo ad altare Dei.”
—from James Joyce’s Ulysses, which portrays a day of jealousy, erotic passion, friends, the church, Irish politics, lust, and Bloom’s journey home to his first love, Molly, his unfaithful wife. All led by Desire.
   Eroticism’s power is not only an invitation to experience that explosion of bodily ecstasy itself, but to travel the deep journey to its core, its sacred source. Desire and yearning are created within our souls as an expression of union, beginning outside of ourselves bodily, in odor, taste, moans, and touch, for that which is incomplete within ourselves. Desire. Or is it attempting to be complete in its union with another? 
     Vern challenges our sin of dualism. “[S]ome Power enticed and did seduce the creatures to come forth, in sun’s warm shine. That Power who once selected us through sex, we yet must find in us, enshrine, and flex” (sonnet 138).
   Vern dares us to not fear the eruption but to feel its beauty and energy. “Where passion is, God finds His silvered glass presenting what is lost in our found eyes . . . in raw wonder . . . reformed in seeking him in strange disguise” (sonnet 136). Who is the source of that eruption? Is this really what the Word Made Flesh describes?
     Cultural anthropologists remind us that it does not matter who we love; rather it matters how we love. Are we generous, concerned about another’s pleasure, or only our own? Are we authentic, honest about who we reveal ourselves to be? Is love only measured by time or one stage in one’s life? Is not each breath and touch sacred?
    The architecture of a sonnet becomes a container, as a vase, to hold the dynamic, the vibration, the energy, the passion in the revelation of carnal desire. The fire is not dissipated within the container of the sonnet, but it is held together in a disciplined union. In ten channels that erotic fire birthed 154 sonnets: 1+5+ 4=10, as did the ten chapters of Genesis, the enfleshed beginnings of the passionate Word Made Flesh. 
     Thank you, Vern for that discipline which harnesses that to what is already sleeping in our blood, and souls.

—Sister Donna Ryan, RSM



PEOPLE tend to throw around the phrase, “Renaissance Man” with reckless abandon. I do not, and I want to make this point particularly clear when I say that my friend Vern truly is a Renaissance Man. Theologian, activist, pastor, writer, teacher, scholar, embracer-of-all-things-interfaith-and-recently- baptized-Christian, musician, poet . . . . Like Chaucer’s clerk, gladly would he learn and gladly teach. A lifetime of noticing (does not all good scholarship, after all, begin with noticing?) led to this remarkable collection of sonnets. And if that were not enough (dayenu!), the reader is gently, humbly taught by the notes that Vern includes with each. In Vern’s presence – flesh and blood and in his written word – we can’t help but find ourselves noticing right alongside him. And in noticing, find ourselves sharing the  gratitude which informs the whole of Vern’s life, which we lucky ducks get to experience in full measure when we dive into what he has chosen to share with us.
     I envy those who have known Vern longer than I. That said, as his one-time pastor for several blessed years, I discovered that Vern and I share a love for paranomasia – which, in part, is why we also share a love for the sonnets of Shakespeare and Donne. So it occurs to me that the notes that Vern shares, that explicate his manifold allusions to classical literature, world religions, sacred and profane love of diverse kinds, and works of fellow poets, remind me that Vern really is a jazz artist on top of his many other accomplishments. He note-ices everything. And like good jazz artists everywhere, he thoroughly embraces the discipline of (in this case) poetic structure and theory while riffing splendid notes you never saw coming, in his own inimitable fashion. Pull up a chair. Notice what he does and how he does it. You’ll be grateful you did.

—The Reverend Susan Sommer,
rector, St. David's Episcopal Church, Glenview, IL



I’m no sonnet connoisseur, but was drawn into Vern Barnet’s collection, Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire. He offers 154 sensual and subversive expressions. Why 154? Writes the wily Barnet: “I want to be compared to the best.” Shakespeare published 154. Our contemporary sonnet poet, by nature, a modest soul, reveals, even courageously, his sensual longings through this old art form. Secure in faith and with considerable self-awareness, he enjoys pushing boundaries, breaking old religious taboos. Barnet has had a love affair with sonnets for years and now comes clean, feeling it time to share yet another expression of his mystical faith, or, as he describes his exploration of God-given desire: “the spiritual meaning of sexual yearning.”
     His musings and imagery are enhanced by a wide exposure  over many years to varied religious traditions. There is an undercurrent to these sonnets, his attempt to shed readers of inhibition into a state of a aroused awareness of what it means to fully human, a state in which one experiencing the sexual and divine as one. Some might view Barnet as writing at the edge; others will recognize his toils in an age-old tradition of spiritual gurus who delighted in the flesh as they sang divine praise. This is not a book to be picked up and read quickly. No, it rather belongs at bedside, each sonnet to be savored and explored, slowly – lover at your side. 

Tom Fox, Publisher, National Catholic Reporter

Vern Barnet’s sonnet collection, Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire, melds academic presentation with literary art form, creating a whole work that would please the Bard of Avon. Barnet establishes useful context throughout the work, employing epigraphs and footnotes that guide the reader on a literary journey and allow the reader to experience the subject through the form of language. His masterful sonnet choices and the unique organizational strategy of the collection weave a tapestry of transcendence, allowing one to share aspects of the physical and spiritual world, merging an evolving sense of human desire with the divine. I have no hesitation in endorsing Barnet’s bold work of art.

—Dennis E. Thompson, Professor of English and Humanities 
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Thanks for Noticing 
The Interpretation of Desire 

Nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est.
    It suits the dutiful poet to be chaste himself;
    his verses don't need to be that way at all. 
                                               —Catullus 16 
IN THE tradition of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets, these poems explore fleshy and spiritual meanings of love and art. Shakespeare's sonnets are of uneven quality, and many of mine fail; but Shakespeare's struggles  to come to terms with his infatuations and obsessions — with a beautiful young man and a mysterious dark lady — enlarge us even in his lesser sonnets; just so, my inferior efforts may have some worth. 

I have reworked nine sonnets from the seventy in my 1992 collection, Love Without Desire: Sonnets About Loving Men. That book explored a theme central to Buddhism: non-attachment. This new book moves toward a Sufi appreciation of appetite, suggested by Ibn Arabi's Tarjuman al-Ashwaq (The Interpreter of Desires). Arabi was inspired by Nizam, Dante by Beatrice, and Shakespeare, often in a troubled way, by his young friend.

This book's title, Thanks for Noticing, suggests the importance of the attention we give each other. The phrase comes from the sonnet to a friend who asked to sleep with me as a way of working through his heterosexism. ("Sleeping" sometimes means sex, so it may be necessary here to say the request was literal, not euphemistic; until recently, men often slept with men with no thought of sexual behavior.) He had never slept with a guy before and was used to his girlfriend in bed with him. He noticed some differences.

Like Coleridge at 17, I was intrigued by the difficulty of the sonnet form. As an undergraduate, I studied with US Poet Laureate Karl Shapiro, and as a graduate student with the preeminent historian of religions, Mircea Eliade.

In the decades since, my praying has become hundreds of sonnets; this collection is a "medicine bundle" of some of them, and the following INTRODUCTION helps to unwrap them. The sonnet sometimes maneuvers its message in three phases: first naming a concern (the octave), then an insight on the concern (the first four lines of the sestet), then a resolution (the concluding couplet).

In some cases these phases resemble a three-part version of a "hero's journey" theorized by Joseph Campbell, with whom I had numerous conversations. These phases can be described as separation, initiation, and reincorporation, based on a "coming of age" pattern described by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep. In the lyric sonnet, the journey is spiritual, not literally geographic. The initiation may be an illuminating trial; through suffering one may gain deeper understanding of others and of oneself. Such wisdom may lead to compassion. The reincorporation, the return, from the inner personal experience to the community of which one is a part, is essential to the completion of the journey. In a sense, offering these sonnets, many of which are now humiliating, completes the journey

What I mean is that too many of these sonnets recount adolescent infatuation 50 years ago, limerence, and other forms of indiscretion. As Shakespeare wrote (Sonnet 72), "For I am shamed by that which I bring forth . . . ." I would like to present myself as sober and judicious; but if I have attained any hint of maturity, it is only by working through such petty and embarrassing episodes. Even if I forgive him, I may not like the fool who wrote some of these poems, but at least he is somewhat honest, and noticing bits of the jerk's journey may help others. This book is a confession of my inadequate love of God.

I hope the sonnets speak for themselves. But how to hear them? The INTRODUCTION below provides two clues. The first section, ? DESIRE, introduces how I think about the spiritual meaning of sexual yearning. The second section is a short course on how ? THE SONNET works, in history and in form.

Clues for individual sonnets may include an epigraph to suggest a complementary or ironic context, and notes and glosses at the bottom of the page may help with unusual words and sometimes comment on the verse structure. Just as the printed score is not music but rather a direction to produce the composer's ideas, so poems, and especially sonnets, are meant to be read aloud. It is not the image on the page so much as the melody in the ear that makes the sensible sonnet sound its truth.

Vern Barnet
Kansas City, MO
2014 April 26, exactly 450 years
after Shakespeare was baptized

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Table of Contents
002   Details
003   Dedication 
004   Frontispiece
006   List of Sonnets in Thematic Order
009   Foreword
013   Introduction

051       1  INTROIT 
057       7   KYRIE
063     13   GLORIA
072     22      Troparion: Commitments
079     29      Troparion: Shakespeare and Shiva
091     41      Troparion: Rings and Rumi
100     50      Troparion: Andalusia
111     61      Troparion: Grappling
123     73      Troparion: Incidents 
128     78   CREDO
137     87   CONFITEOR
161   111   SANCTUS
189   139   AGNUS DEI
201   151   DISMISSAL

206      About Shakespeare’s Sonnets
207      Biographical Sketch of the Author
208      The Crises of Our Time
210      Chart of the Crises and World Religions
211      Commentary
222      Alphabetical List of Sonnets 
224      Conventions and Style

Publication Data 
In stock now, October 2015
$16.95 paperback; 6"x9", 13oz, 224 pages
Frontispiece,  Commentary, Appendices, Index
ISBN: 978-0692494370
LCCN: 2015911786
LC: PS3602.A77567 T53 2015-- Dewey: 811`6—dc23
PCIP: 1. Erotic poetry. 2. Gay erotica. 3. Gender identity. 
4. Sex—Religious aspects. 5. Postmodernism (Literature)

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A Developing 
reader contributions welcome
U N D E R    C O N S T R U C T I O N

This short Concordance draws together some themes and implications of the sonnet pages only (pages 51-204) -- titles, epigraphs, sonnets, and glosses / notes. 
     This is not an index of all names or traditions cited. 
     In this list below, the number preceding the sonnet title (sometimes shortened) is the sonnet number. For the page number, add 50 to the sonnet number.
    Reader contributions are welcomed.

African American themes
     8 Noticing a Birthday, 22 Standards, 23 Examination, 33 Birthday Course, 70 Attraction, 71 Hence, 75 New York, 112 The Hajj, 113 Sacred Play, 124 Destiny, 130 Your Choice, 140 Your Next Visit, 145 Birthday Eden

Anglican/Episcopal tradition
     Thomas Cranmer - Book of Common Prayer. 1 Al-Fatiha, 3 The Call, 11 Kitchen Cockroach, 52 Toledo: Summit, 81 Easter Vigil Baptism, 89 Idiom, 94 Epiclesis, 97 Not One Drop, 154 Closing Instruction
     Edmund Spenser (Spencer). 14 Ad Astra, 108 Libation 
     Christopher Marlowe. 108 Libation 
     William Shakespeare. 2 Don’t Ask, 6 A Wedding Reel, 9 Johnson County, 14 Ad Astra, 15 Acropolis Canon, 19 Anatomy, 29 Shakespeare’s Fair Young Man, 30 Shakespeare’s 73 Redux, 31 Nineteen, 34 Conjuring, 43 Shams, 67 Drunken Sailor, 74 Certificate, 75 New York, 76 Angel, 81 Easter Vigil Baptism, 82 Easter Morning, 84 Postmodern Faith, 87 Swamp, 88 Love Locket, 89 Idiom, 93 Thin Veil, 94 Epiclesis, 96 Warning, 99 Fact or Fancy, 100 Content, 102 Now, 106 Even Zeus, 107 Status, 108 Libation, 110 An Ancient Couple, 115 Aftershock, 116 A Temple Ritual, 127 Morning Dream, 128 Carnal Knowledge, 129 Whatever Changes, 137 The Sovereign’s Bed, 140 Your Next Visit, 144 Numbers, 146 Monastic Exercise, 148 Bequest, 149 Passing, 151 Maya’s Workbench, 153 Grammarian
     Robert Cawdrey. 16 Just Try To Kiss Me
     John Donne. 5 This Season’s Rune, 31 Nineteen, 59 Naked Faith 
     Robert Burton. 76 Angel
     Henry Vaughan. 6 A Wedding Reel, 83 Pentecost
     Andrew Marvell. 6 A Wedding Reel, 26 Gardening, 129 Whatever Changes
     George Herbert. 5 This Season’s Rune, 8 Noticing a Birthday, 31 Nineteen
     Richard Crashaw. 56 Ascension
     Thomas Browne. 49 What Counts 
     Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson). 102 Now
     Eveyn Underhill. 19 Anatomy, 26 Gardening, 48 Welcome Back
     T S Eliot. 69 Fire Sermon, 102 Now, 142 Tinnitus
     W H Auden. 4 Dimensions, 84 Postmodern Faith: What is Truth?, 104 Repair En Route
     C S Lewis. 110 An Ancient Couple
     The Hymnal 1982. 51 Madrid: Encampment
     Robert Bellah. 65 Poetic Failure, 127 Morning Dream
     Robert Farrar Capon. 29 Shakespeare’s Fair Young Man, 33 Birthday Course, 69 Fire Sermon, 76 Angel
     Carter Hayward. 25 Wound Wick, 51 Madrid: Encampment
     John Shelby Spong. 82 Easter Morning, 106 Even Zeus
     Matthew Fox (previously a Dominican). 90 The Game Concludes 120 Holy Words
     Tom Brous. 142 Tinnitus

American Indian themes


Art, poetry


    1 Al-Fatiha, 3 The Call, 4 Dimensions, 10 Barren Golgotha, 23 Examination, 34 Conjuring, 36 Catching Fire, Throwing Power, 40 Ahimsa, 49 What Counts, 52 Toledo, 53 C?rdoba, 68 Meridian, 69 Fire Sermon, 79 The Quest for the Historical Jesus, 82 Easter Morning, 86 Interbeing, 88 Love Locket, 99 Fact or Fancy, 102 Now, 115 Aftershock,116 A Temple Ritual, 123 Sacred Site 2: Chaitya Hall Padma, 124 Destiny, 130 Your Choice, 133 Nirmanakaya,138 Seasoning, 141 Sutra Practice, 150 Personal Trainer
    Pratitya-samutpada. 4 Dimensions
     Void, Emptiness, Sunya. 27 Less is More, 34 Conjuring, 35 Scoring, 36 Catching Fire, 44 Saladin, 48 Welcome Back, 60 A Blessing, 79 The Quest for the Historical Jesus, 83 Pentecost, 102 Now, 104 Repair En Route, 106 Even Zeus, 115 Aftershock, 123 Sacred Site 2: Chaitya Hall Padma, 125 Banquet of Paradise, 130 Your Choice, 131 Islam, 133 Nirmanakaya, 134 Kairos, 135 Stars and Skin, 138 Seasoning, 151 Maya’s Workbench

     Also see also Anglican/ . . . 

     Eucharist.-- 20 Relaxed, 28 Intimate Commitment, 30 Shakespeare’s 73 Redux, 52 Toledo, 65 Poetic Failure, 78 Advent, 79 The Quest for the Historical Jesus, 81 Easter Vigil Baptism, 94 Epiclesis, 122 Sacred Site 1: Cathedral, 125 Banquet of Paradise



     25 Wound Wick, 55 Granada, 90 The Game Concludes, 101 Jesus Would Have Loved, 114 Our First Time, 118 Collect, 119 Profane Words, 120 Holy Words, 121 Leaking Out, 122 Sacred Site 1, Sacred Site 2, 124 Destiny, 125 Banquet of Paradise, 126 Gemini, 127 Morning Dream, 128 Carnal Knowledge, 129 Whatever Changes, 130 Your Choice, 131 Islam, 132 Adhan, 135 Stars and Skin, 136 The Purpose of Sex, 139 Penetration, 140 Your Next Visit, 146 Monastic Exercise, 148 Bequest

God, god, divine

In the Introduction: Rig Veda 10.129:4  (page 18), Shiva and Shakti (page 26), Indra's net (Sonnet 4), the the Mahabharata (Sonnet 8), Vishnu and Viraj and also bhakti yoga (Sonnet 13), lila (Sonnet 17), Shiva Nataraja and the vajra (Sonnet 36),  puja and Shiva (Sonnet 37), Shiva (Sonnet 39), Shiva (Sonnet 40), Krishna (Sonnet 54), avatar (Sonnet 48), Shiva (Sonnet 60), Shiva (Sonnet 68), moksha  (Sonnet 69), maya (Sonnet 99), the Trimurti (Sonnet 100), Indra (Sonnet 109), darshan (Sonnet 116), the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Krishna and Radha (Sonnet 117), Shiva, the Ganga, and Ahimsa (Sonnet 118), ahimsa and padma (Sonnet 123), the Holi festival, Prahlada, and Vishnu (Sonnet 139), sutra (Sonnet 141), maya (Sonnet 151). Some implicitly Hindu themes can be found in 43, 84, 88, 136 and many others.

Islam etc



     Who is a mystic? Excluded here are Plato, Irenaeus, Dante, ahadith, the scacred scriptures of the East and the like. Also see specific faiths. 

    Peter Abelard. 76 Angel, 92 Just a Boy
    Aelred. 16 Just Try To Kiss Me
    Thomas Aquinas. 85 Theodicy
    Bernard of Clairvaux. 16 Just Try To Kiss Me, 48 Welcome Back, 105 The Kiss, 116 A Temple Ritual, 152 Last Watch
    William Blake. 4 Dimensions, 41 Time Travel, 83 Pentecost, 124 Destiny, 145 Birthday Eden, 152 Last Watch
    Jakob Boehme. 86 Interbeing
    Boethius. 6 A Wedding Reel
    Bonaventure. 61 Jacob’s Ladder, 131 Islam
    Guiraut de Borneilh. 31 Nineteen
    John Chrysostom. 90 The Game Concludes
    Oliver Clément. 137 The Sovereign’s Bed
    John Climacus. 92 Just a Boy
    Cloude of Unknowyng. 26 Gardening
    Richard Crashaw. 56 Ascension
    Nicolaus Cusanus. 82 Easter Morning, 136 The Purpose of Sex
    John Donne. 5 This Season’s Rune, 31 Nineteen, 59 Naked Faith, 87 Swamp
    Meister Eckhart. 9 Johnson County, 25 Wound Wick, 27 Less is More, 31 Nineteen, 125 Banquet of Paradise, 131 Islam
    T S Eliot. 57 Rio Darro Flowing, 69 Fire Sermon, 83 Pentecost, 102 Now, 142 Tinnitus
    Matthew Fox. 90 The Game Concludes, 120 Holy Words,
    Bede Griffiths. 118 Collect, 120 Holy Words
    Romano Guardini. 3 The Call, 59 Naked Faith
    George Herbert. 5 This Season’s Rune, 8 Noticing a Birthday, 31 Nineteen, 81 Easter Vigil Baptism
    Hildegard of Bingen. 124 Destiny
    Ignatius of Loyola. 146 Monastic Exercise
    Johannes Kelpius. 137 The Sovereign’s Bed
    John of the Cross. 18 Bed Position 50 Seville, 66 Open Heart
    Julian of Norwich. 4 Dimensions, 19 Anatomy, 88 Love Locket
    Kepler. 6 A Wedding Reel
    Mechthild of Magdeburg. 23 Examination
    Thomas Merton. 27 Less is More, 35 Scoring, 115 Aftershock
    Gregory of Nyssa. 90 The Game Concludes
    Elaine Pagels. 35 Scoring
    Jan van Ruysbroeck. 113 Sacred Play
    Alexander Schmemann. 78 Advent, 109 Thunderbolt
    Albert Schweitzer. 79 The Quest for the Historical Jesus
    Huston Smith. 21 Ballad, 72 The Story, 79 The Quest for the Historical Jesus, 95 Acetylene Torch, 138 Seasoning
    Symeon the New Theologian. 132 Adhan
    Johannes Tauler. 48 Welcome Back
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. 38 The Grail, 45 Husam, 67 Drunken Sailor, 82 Easter Morning, 120 Holy Words, 136 The Purpose of Sex
    Thomas Traherne. 36 Catching Fire, Throwing Power, 55 Granada: Scale, 101 Jesus Would have Loved This Man
    Evelyn Underhill. 19 Anatomy, 26 Gardening, 48 Welcome Back
    Henry Vaughan. 6 A Wedding Reel, 83 Pentecost

    Abu’l-Hosain al-Nuri. 79 The Quest for the Historical Jesus
    Allama Iqbal.48 Welcome Back
    Bachar ibn Baurdi/Bashar ibn Burd. 97 Not One Drop
    Fahkruddin Iraqi. 37 Puja, 50 Seville: Burning, 60 A Blessing
    Farid ud-din Attar. 58 The Plan
    Fethullah Gülen. 104 Repair En Route
    Firdausi. 9 Johnson County
    Hafez/Hafiz. 49 What Counts
    Hallaj. 82 Easter Morning, 112 The Hajj
    Ibn Arabi. 3 The Call, 16 Just Try To Kiss Me, 50 Seville: Burning, 60 A Blessing, 86 Interbeing, 100 Content, 103 Anomaly, 111 Nafas, 112 The Haaj
    Ibn Hazm. 5 This Season’s Rune
    Ja’far al-Sâdiq. 69 Fire Sermon
    Junayd. 111 Nafas Rahmani
    Niffari. 62 Grapplers, 63 Conversion
    Rabi‘a al–Adawiyya. 27 Less is More
    Rumi, Jelaluddin. 1 Al-Fatiha: Opening Instruction, 14 Ad Astra, 25 Wound Wick, 27 Less is More, 28 Intimate Commitment, 33 Birthday Course, 36 Catching Fire, Throwing Power, 37 Puja, 42 The Sun — ARumi Quartet, 43 Shams — A Rumi Quartet,  44 Saladin — A Rumi Quartet, 45 Husam — A Rumi Quartet, 46 You are Rumi, 47 No, Maybe I’m Rumi, 48 Welcome Back, 49 What Counts, 60 A Blessing, 64 The Line in a Nearly Parallel Universe, 66 Open Heart, 67 Drunken Sailor, 80 The Cosmic Christ, 90 The Game Concludes, 91 Fallen Tower, 95 Acetylene Torch, 98 Existentialism,  104 Repair En Route, 105 The Kiss, 106 Even Zeus, 111 Nafas Rahmani, 112 The Hajj, 128 Carnal Knowledge, 131 Islam, 132 Adhan 137 The Sovereign’s Bed, 145 Birthday Eden, 148 Bequest, 154 Closing Instruction 
    Saadi. 51 Madrid Encampment
    Suhrawardi. 16 Just Try To Kiss Me, 42 The Sun, 60 A Blessing, 84 Postmodern Faith, 139 Penetration

OTHER ( Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu,Sikh,  "Secular," etc)
    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. 31 Nineteen
    Baruch of Kosov. 128. Carnal Knowledge
    Martin Buber. 9 Johnson County, 55 Granada: Scale, 60 A Blessing, 110 Ancient Couple, 124 Destiny
    Anagarika Govinda. 123 Sacred Site 2
    Dag Hammerskjöld. 25 Wound Wick, 104 Repair En Route, 154 Closing Instruction
    Thich Nhat Hanh. 82 Easter Morning, 86 Interbeing
    Aldous Huxley. 12 A Roman Soldier, 23 Examination, 39 Carpe Diem, 40 Ahimsa, 49 What Counts, 134 Kairos
    William James. 83 Pentecost, 86 Interbeing
    Kabir. 65 Poetic Failure, 112 The Hajj
    Kratophany. 119 Profane Words
    Moses De Leon. 126 Gemini
    Moses Ibn Ezra. 45 Husam
    Nagarjuna. 86 Interbeing
    Kitaro Nishida. 86 Interbeing
    Wallace Stevens. 45 Husam, 84 Postmodern Faith, 136 The Purpose of Sex, 144 Numbers
    D T Suzuki. 124 Destiny
    Rabindranath Tagore. 36 Catching Fire, 152 Last Watch
    Henry David Thoreau. 150. Personal Trainer
    Walt Whitman. 74 Certificate, 101 Jesus Would Have Loved This Man, 105 The Kiss, 117 
    Heinrich Zimmer. 76 Angel

Myth and reality



     3 The Call, 17 Thanks for Noticing, 20 Relaxed, 21 Ballad, 27 Less is More, 30 Shakespeare’s 73 Redux, 33 Birthday Course, 35 Scoring, 38 The Grail, 39 Carpe Diem, 42 The Sun — A Rumi Quartet, 46 You are Rumi, 51 Madrid: Encampment, 56 Ascension, 59 Naked Faith, 61 Jacob’s Ladder, 72 The Story, 83 Pentecost, 84 Postmodern Faith: What is Truth?, 90 The Game Concludes, 93 Thin Veil, 109 Thunderbolt, 112 The Hajj, 113 Sacred Play, 117 Kratophany, 118 Collect, 127 Morning Dream, 130 Your Choice, 135 Stars and Skin

     47 No, Maybe I’m Rumi, 26 Gardening, 80 The Cosmic Christ, 84 Postmodern Faith, 95 Acetylene Torch, 151 Maya’s Workbench

     See MYSTICS-Muslim

Science, mathematics
     3 The Call, 4 Dimensions, 6 A Wedding Reel, 9 Johnson County, 11 Kitchen Cockroach, 12 A Roman Solider, 34 Conjuring, 35 Scoring, 39 Carpe Diem, 41 Time Travel, 42 The Sun, 45 Husam, 52 Toledo, 58 The Plan, 68 Meridian, 70 Attraction, 89 Idiom,128 Carnal Knowledge,130 Your Choice,138 Seasoning,147 Night Voyage,152 Last Watch

Sexual expression, male-male
     Most of the 154 sonnets about friends and lovers are not gender-specific. Several sonnets suggest male-female eroticism; about twenty sonnets, depending on how you read them, hint or explicitly express male-male sexuality. 
     36 Catching Fire, 37 Puja, 55 Granada, 75 New York, 90 The Game Concludes, 106 Even Zeus, 113 Sacred Play, 114 Our First Time, 115 Aftershock, 117 Kratophany, 118 Collect, 122 Sacred Site 1: Cathedral, 124 Destiny, 125 Banquet of Paradise, 127 Morning Dream, 128 Carnal Knowledge, 129 Whatever Changes, 131 Islam, 132 Adhan, 139 Penetration, 143 The Last Sail 

Sexual variation
     1 Al-Fatiha, 2 Don’t Ask, 14 Ad Astra, 17 Thanks for Noticing, 18 Bed Position, 20 Relaxed+, 22 Standards, 29 Shakespeare’s Fair Young Man, 36 Catching Fire, Throwing Power, 55 Granada: Scale, 75 New York, 90 The Game Concludes+, 92 Just a Boy+, 101 Jesus Would Have Loved+, 105 The Kiss, 106 Even Zeus+, 107 Status+, 108 Libation+, 110 An Ancient Couple+, 113 Sacred Play+, 114 Our First Time, 115 Aftershock, 117 Kratophany+, 118 Collect+, 119 Profane Words+, 120 Holy Words+, 122 Sacred Site 1: Cathedral, 123 Sacred Site 2: Chaitya Hall, 124 Destiny+, 125 Banquet of Paradise+ 126 Gemini+, 127 Morning Dream, 128 Carnal Knowledge+, 129 Whatever Changes+, 130 Your Choice+, 131 Islam, 132 Adhan, 133 Nirmanakaya+, 136 The Purpose of Sex+, 138 Seasoning, 139 Penetration, 141 Sutra Practice+, 143 The Last Sail, 146 Monastic Exercise+

Shakespeare See Anglican/ . . . .

     19 Anatomy

     97 Not One Drop, 118 Collect, 145 Birthday Eden

Veil theology
     16 Just Try To Kiss Me, 79 The Quest for the Historical Jesus, 86 Interbeing, 93 Thin Veil

     42 The Sun — A Rumi Quartet, 103 Anomaly

About Paradox

Thanks for Noticing is built on a paradox -- only by knowing another can we know ourselves. But there are lots of other paradoxes along the path of the 154 sonnets. Here are some examples:

[33 gloss] simul justus et peccator --Luther

[40 gloss] Shiva is (both) the most severe ascetic and the world’s greatest lover.

[49 gloss] Paradox: As used in this book, a paradox is not a contradiction but rather an indication of the inadequacy of language to convey the truth or the whole of a situation, even beyond the limits of thought. Since faith often seeks to point to something beyond an immediate and limited focus, paradox is common in religious discourse, especially mysticism. Søren Kierkegaard writes, “the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think (Philosophical Fragments, p37).

[80] I’ll be hurt to heal -- (Christ as the wounded healer)

[82] Through time a wonder, God or not, has stood
     when even evil will ordain the good.  -- the crucifixion and resurrection

[86 epitaphs] Any universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind capable of understanding it. --John D Barrow
The world is one, namely many. --Kitaro Nishida

[102 gloss] the paradox parallel to Alice being the same and yet different person one day to the next.

[136 gloss] De Docta Ignoratia (Of Learned Ignorance) as well as his church politics and astronomy, Nicolaus Cusanus (1401-1464) wrote mysticism in De visione Dei.

I don't know if I discovered Cusa first from Jaspers or from ELiade, but the “coincidence of the opposites” is surely an essential tool in theological reflection. It is with this tool that I describe myself as a Christian, for the peace that passes understanding in the God-man Christ reveals the world both as a glorious miracle and a fallen tragedy or terror, mythiclally recounted and ritually enacted. The repulsion and awe I feel given the blessing of eating the flesh of God and drinking his blood dramatizes the embrace of the paradox of horror and bliss, found united in the Eucharist, a powerful reminder of God's grace and the cost of beholding it in the sacrifice of the Savior.

Thanks for citing the statement that Jesus is not only wholly God and wholly human but also wholly unexpected and wholly incomprehensible to normal rational thought.

Of course Christianity is not the only religion that deals in paradox. If I were living in Japan, maybe, I'd be a Buddhist with the Bodhisattva paradox who gives up attachment to everything, including Enlightenment, in order to save others from suffering -- Enlightenment is knowing there is no Enlightenment. This is not so very different from an interpretation of the words of Jesus: He who seeks his life shall lose it . . . .

CORRECTIONS to the first printing
reader catches welcome
please email

I wanted a book free from errors, but many have been found. Well, other venerable collections of sonnets also began with errors, such as Sidney's Astrophel and Stella and even Shakespeare's Sonnets.

g=gloss, note 
change this > to this



7 113 Sacred Play 163 bold =

9 line 1 ' > ’
9 line 4 of 1st paragraph obsesssions > obsessions 

17 line 1 6:19. > 6:19).
17 last of #3 liturgy, [remove] celebrating how to love. 

20 line 7 nutriants > nutrients

21 line 10 treated as women > treated women

22 line 4 up woman cannot be priests > . . . women

31 that Creative > that Vision and Creative

34 use the more common spelling Spencer > Spenser

48 penultimate paragraph, antepenultimate line
     we call be filled  >  we may be filled

49 after The Cloud of Unknowing
     Almightie God, unto whom all hartes bee open, and all desyres knowen, and from whom no secretes are hid: clense the thoughtes of our hartes, by the inspiracion of thy holy spirite: that we may perfectly loue thee, and worthely magnifie thy holy name: through Jesus Christ our Lorde. Amen.  —The Booke of the Common Prayer, 1549
49 —The [1979] Book of Common Prayer, Rite Two > —The Book of Common Prayer, 1979 

51g hadith > Hadith-i Qudsi (Makatib-i Abdu'l-Baha, vol 2, Cairo, 1330, 2-55).

53s line 8 , quiet, > of still,

59s line 13 lying > playing

59s line 4 pinned now > pinned, now 

60s line 3 better: > roaming: 
60s line 4 unwilled > unstamped

63g God: ASpiritual > God: A Spiritual 
63g Kansas City MO > Kansas City, MO
63g yuga > yuga 
63g nigun > nigun and jazz scat sometimes employ

64g reverse order of identification of epigraphs
64g use the more common spelling Spencer > Spenser

66g Veil theology: [T]hou art God,  thy glory veiling, so that we may bear the sight. The Hymnal 1982 [Episcopal], 336:2.

67s line 3 guy, > guy
67s line 4 you honor me, > valorized,
67s line 14 a paradise > felicity

71s line 9 stream of blessings > rush of riches
71s line 11 doubtless > falter, 
71s line 12 what is called > and signals
71g  ream > realm

72s line 1 > I prize not pedigree, not wealth, not strength, 
72s line 2 > not youth, not age, not looks, not smarts, not size.
72s line 6 resume >r?sum? 
72s line 8 count so > measure 
72g p10. > p10. "Simply paying attention is the spiritual work of a lifetime," -- Craig Mueller, Any Body There, 2017, p55. Cf. Shakespeare, Sonnet 91.

73s line 1 > Arising from the ocean, we are brief
73s line 2 > wee waves surveying what the water is
73s line 3  meet > race
73s line 9  . > ,
73s line 10> that tremble of past skin's attention, close.
73s line 14 for us the love > we race the place
73g teeming, fold, race

74s line 14 changes > braces

75s line 1> To take you I'll not try, nor twist, for I
75s line 12 dick with dick > stick with stick

76s 26 > 26 
76g John Wisdom's "Parable of the Invisible Gardener," recast by Antony Flew, is famous in “Theology and falsification: the University discussion” in New Essays in Philosophical Theology. Macmillan, 1964.

78s line 4 our > stone 
78g Stone: Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone. --  Jorge Luis Borges

82g Dance > Dance

87g Fahkruddin > Fakhruddin

88g insert line 12 to know you We can only love what we know, and we can never know completely what we do not love. Love is a mode of knowledge and when the love is sufficiently disinterested and sufficiently intense, the knowledge becomes unitive knowledge and so takes on the quality of infallibility. —Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy, p95.

93g Jallal al-Din > Jelaluddin 

95g .. > .

99g Island, p35, seems > Island, p35, which seems 

100g Fakhr al-Din Iraqi > Fahkruddin Iraqi 

101s line 5 roar, roar, roar > roar amid

103s line 13 These > With | remove dash

106g Teresa > Teresa" (1515-1582).
106g some time > [      ]
106g reiterates the Ascension myth. > reinterprets the Ascension to portray divine love.

108s line 7  lack > lack, 
108s line 9  I have formed > forming me
108s line 10  > an alchemy surpassing cinnabar,

112s line 10  now  > now,
112s line 12 > commuting every "you" to holy "thou."

113s line 14 spirit that I  >  art that I then

114e add
When I have seen the hungry ocean agin
advantage on the kingdom of the shore . . . .
—Shakespeare, Sonnet 64

118s line 3 commands > ordains
118e Purchased by the high seas, he's placed himself in the hands of rival winds.
118g refers to both to > refers to
118g wheel of time > wheel of time
The second EPIGRAPH is from Yehuda Halevi (1075-1141), translated by Gabriel Levin.

120s line 3 find > learn
120s line 6 make > teach
120s line 1 joy > class
120s line 13 > Suppose no stars, no God, no knower learning.
120s line 14 > Yet here we are,  made fresh from yearning.
120g Dance: Perichoresis, rotate, dance around, is a way of describing the Christian Trinity as an intimate relationship, perhaps originating with Gregory of Nazianzus and revived in our time by J?rgen Moltmann, Miroslav Volf, Elizabeth A Johnson, Molly T Marshall, and Richard Rohr.

122s line 2 you! > thee!
122s line 12 your > thy
122g House: 1 Corinthians 6:19.

124e normalize type face in 3d and 4th epigraphs
    add The tie that binds us is an unbreakable rope.
How much time did your creation take, O angel? 
So what! All I want is to sing your praises. 
124g n last > fourth
    add The last is from Abu Nuwas (756-815), translated by Vincent Monteil.

128g never to believe > never . . . believe
128g p179 > p178

129g shadow: "Flare up like a flame/ and make big shadows I can move in." Rilke (Barrows-Macy), Book of Hours, p88. 

130s line 4 through > though

132e/g “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
132g Frazer (The Golden Bough) and others purport to show ancient dying and resurrected vegetative gods presenting dying and growing seasons of the year as presumed models for Jesus. Peter Berger's Sacred Canopy, Chapter 2, and Al Truesdale's If God, Then Why? demonstrate the centrality of the problem of evil for Christians.

133s line 10 all > red

134s line 8 getok > getik
134s line 14 cares > grabs

135e Why is it like this if there is supposed to be a God?
135g The second epigraph is from Denis Johnson, New York, 2002 June 17.
135g disparity:  "So distribution should undo excess, and each man have enough." King Lear, 4.1.80-81 

136g Nitaro > Kitaro

137s line 8 subtle from the > subtle cross from
137g cross: If we consider the sovereign balm of our souls, the blood of Christ Jesus, there is enough for all the world. —John Donne, [Sermon 3:] On the Nativity, 1625 Dec 25; p53 in Alford's 1839 edition of Works.

138e use Book Antiqua for Idem . . . . 
138g add Desire:  ->Collect for Purity, p49. “It is I who teach you to desire. It is I who am the reward of all true desiring. All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” —Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), Revelations of Divine Love, 14th.

139g fibers. > fibers. Tree . . . dry: see Isaiah 56:3, “Let no eunuch complain, 'I am just a dry tree.'”

140g Turtullian > Tertullian

142e add
        Even your sensibilities 
        And your depraved innocence
       Are only special premiums
        Rewards of a shameful commerce.

142g add The third EPIGRAPH is from Peter Abelard (079-1142), translated by Kenneth Rexroth

144g monothesitic > monotheistic

147sline 1 this I know. > to and fro.
147sline 2 no rule but flow > not fiat: flow

148e gib > gibt
148s line 9 rhythm > fluxions

149s line 9 remove second are.
149g line 4 59 > 89

151s line 10 night, > night.
151g line 2 insert Wouldst thou love God alone? God alone cannot be beloved. He cannot be loved with a finite love, because He is infinite. . . . He must be beloved in all with an illumited love, even in all His doings, in all His friends, in all His creatures. Everywhere in all things thou must meet His love. . . . His love unto thee is the law and measure of thine unto him: His love unto all others the law and obligation of thine unto all. —Thomas Traherne, Centuries, 1.72.12

153g To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god. --Jorge Luis Borges

154s line 2 do > set 

156s line 2 countless > boundless
156s line 2 sometimes > morphing

158g use the more common spelling Spencer > Spenser
158g male sexuality) > male sexuality and others say the Tetragrammaton would have been read Hu/Hi, He/She) 

159s line 11 through time for pledge > 
                   to sley through time
159s line 14 want > need
159g addSley, a process in weaving.

164g penultimate line an specific > a specific

166g Clairveau > Clairvaux

167g p160. Play > p160. Key: See "key" in the intimate and sensual Shakespeare''s Sonnet 52. Play

170s line 1 My friend > My mate
170s line 9 I want an honest, open > My duty's to an honest

170s line 11 My friends > My lusts

171g Blab . . . speaks: WIlliam Irwin Thompson argues that the Hopi cherish "the twin mysteries of sexuality and speech. Since the First People cannot speak, . . . they cannot reproduce. Both the seed and the word are forms of information; the seed is the word in water and the word is seed in the air." The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light, p26. World: “The view of nature which predominated in the West down to the eve of the Scientific Revolution was that of an enchanted world. Rocks, trees, rivers, and clouds were all seen as wondrous, alive, and human beings felt at home in this environment. The cosmos, in short, was a place of belonging. A member of this cosmos was not an alienated observer of it but a direct participant in its drama. His pesonal destiny was bound up with its destiny, and this relationship gave meaning to his life. This type of consciousness . . . involves merger, or identification, with one's surroundings, and bespeaks a psychic wholeness that has long since passed from the scene.” —Morris Berman, The Reenchantment of the World, p2.

174g >The EPIGRAPH is from The Secret Gospel of Mark, verses 8 and 12. Probably used in Alexandria in the early Second Century, the Gospel was found in 1958, its text included in The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version, 1992. Studies like those reported in Biblical Archaeology Review 2009 Nov/Dec, Vol 35 No 6, suggest it is genuine. See also Mark 14:51-52 and 16:5.

175g alexandrine > alexandrine variant

179g See also > Contrast Shakespeare

183s line 14 but brings no > and brings time's 

184s line 5 shove > shrive 
184s line 14 that's > for 

185s line 7 enemy > enemy, 
185s line 9 away > erased
185g insert The Song of Songs enshrines this love in the heart of our scriptures: the love of the human beloved is our closest, most decisive analogy to the love of God. Both loves are difficult to express adequately. But somehow poets, from antiquity to today, have learned how to write of this skittish, well-camouflaged best we call “eros.” You may not think that love poetry is important to Christian faith, but if the poetry of human love ever ceased to exist, we would lose the best means we have to speak of our drawing near to God. — L. William Countryman, Love Human and Divine, 2005, p55 
185g Sholmo > Shlomo

186s line 3 unfurled > and curled

192s line 3 discorse > discourse
192s line 9 yet timeless > yet a timeless
192g TS Eliot > T S Eliot

195g Shout:  God is a "shout in the street." —James Joyce, Ulysses, Episode 2 Nestor.

196g Luscious: "The pleasure attached to explicit sexual portrayals in words or pictures should be accepted as the powerful ally of any effort to teach the responsible use of so beautyiful a thing." —L William Countryman, Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and their Implications for Today, p245.

199e add
[] Uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, . . . Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.
[] A candle in the thighs / Warms youth and seed and burns the seeds of age . . . .
199s line 13 , not fast > your thigh
199s line 14 will be passed. > slumps to prose. 
199g > The second is from Isaiah 47:2-3, the third from "Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines" by Dylan Thomas.
199g > This sonnet uses a Petrachan rime scheme.

202g Clairveau > Clairvaux

203s Sh line 6 tree > shrub
203g Shakespeare misspelled

204e add 
         May I, composed like them 
         Of Eros and of dust . . . .
204s line 14 who > to
204g W H Auden, "September 1, 1939"

207 . . . Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Karl . . .

209 Cite also the three divisions of world religions,  in the scheme developed by The Encounter World Religions Centre in Toronto, the Balance, Indian, and Middle Eastern traditions; and  Robert Arkinson's three categories of indigenous, Dharmic, and Abrahamic religions in The Story of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness.

211 Add Dennis E Thompson to the bullet list
211 column 2, line 3 men > man

221 delete the second appearance of "the Friends of Chamber Music" in the left column

223 113 Sacred Play 163 bold =


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History of Contests
Selected Sonnets from Thanks for Noticing read by

 Click here for index by Sonnet #
*Geneva Blackmer 16
Rozanne Devine 99-135-141-152
Ryan Gates 25-29-55-82-93-124-146
John Gregory 88
Philip Hooser 58
Jon Michael Johnson 14-58-88
Mark Matzeder 16-39
Neal L McGregor 65-88
Michael McQuary 15-99
Sergio Moreno 58-63
Christopher Morgan 39-101
M K Mustard 16-124-92
Anna Oakley 14-14/15-30
Frank Oakley III 15-88-104
*Jamie Rich 146
Coyote Schaaf 82-88
Jesse Schaaf 93-104
Gabriella Sonnenschein 16-88
Alan Tilson 14-30-124
*Enjoy, but don't vote for, these staff members. Exclusions.
The text of most of these sonnets can be found on this page.
You can also borrow the book from the library or purchase one.

Vern Interviewed
1. Invitation to the Reader 1:35    minutes:seconds
2. A Divine Desire 1:20
3. Sacred Sexuality 2:16
4. Connecting the Sacred and the Sexual 2:18
5. Why don't we pray before sex? 1:28
6. Vern and The Bard 1:50
7. How is the book to be used? 3:47 
    With Dr Joseph DeSota singing the Frontispiece
    about 1 minute 19 seconds into the video --
    "Ad Astra," Sonnet 14 in the book (page 64)
8. Reading the first sonnet 2:20


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The mystical union of man, woman, and God that takes place during passionate love-making is the focus of these poems. Vern’s own words, better than my own, capture the essence of this poetry. He states: “Love transforms sexuality from desire for satisfaction to desire merely to behold, which leads to the most intimate participation with the other, the fusion or identity of goal and process in pure sexuality. The climax becomes not merely a physiological spasm but an intense knowing, a beholding. No wonder love-making may include the exclamation, “God!”  —Neal Vahle, author/editor, Mill Valley, CA

As humanity welcomes the Third Millennium, it is finding itself in a constant struggle of redefining definitions and roles. Old frameworks and solutions are fast failing, and people everywhere are being driven to open their minds to new perception.
   We need new stories and new tools on this journey. We need to better understand how we can reshape gender roles and learn to live comfortably in acceptance and diversity with all parts of who we are. Vern's sonnets speak beautifully and honestly to this inner evolution. Let their words into your heart and watch your mind expand! —The Rev Christopher Jackson, vice president, Unity School of Christianity

Ah what a day at Harmony Woods
Dedicated as Vern Sonnet day
Although emergencies in the morn 
shoved best intentions astray 
Finally at one in angel gown with tea I lay....
Finally to have love enough and time
To immerse my selves in such Wordivine
To play with that which hiding the sacred did collapse!
No wimpy Nirvana here
But burning burning blush from chin to ear
Turning the cosmic weal
To grok and unify and defy and kneel
And behold a bluer sky
More answers and questions for the why
Of love at first seeming ordinary
Then freedom yoked with desire!
Love unyoked with control!
The Chalice that is relationship. 

In four hours I am on Troparion Commitments
And must rest my heart 
After scaring the cats with a loud outloud version 
Of Cowboy Krishna plays his flute smart
The pain of The Fall it grieves me, so sad
Ad Astra Campostella sent me aflutter, seeking my lad
Now I must return to the clutter
Of my life but much renewed enlightened
To the ordinary unglued.

So dear Sonneteer Coyote Nigun Troubador
Who excels whether in speedos kilt cassock jamas
In whatever garment footnote he himself in pours
I sincerely feel
This is the correct timing on the cosmic Wheeee all
To birth this child
Tis time and I'll bet your other midwives will agree
By page 26 only amusing typos three
Hippity bippity do woop do
I do believe Tis time to see this lovely volume through 
The world needs this gift from you. 

Buen Camino,
Margaretha Finefrock
The Learning Project