Poets Online

The Angel with the Broken Wing
by Dana Gioia

I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,
The one large statue in this quiet room.
The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut
Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.

The docents praise my elegant design
Above the chatter of the gallery.
Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility.

Mendoza carved me for a country church.
(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)
I stood beside a gilded altar where
The hopeless offered God their misery.

I heard their women whispering at my feet—
Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.
Their candles stretched my shadow up the wall,
And I became the hunger that they fed.

I broke my left wing in the Revolution
(Even a saint can savor irony)
When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.
They hit me once—almost apologetically.

For even the godless feel something in a church,
A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?
A trembling unaccounted by their laws,
An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.

There are so many things I must tell God!
The howling of the dammed can’t reach so high.
But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,
A crippled saint against a painted sky.

Current Writing Prompt

typing prompt

Robert Browning, a prominent Victorian poet, was known for his innovative use of dramatic monologue as a poetry technique. Dramatic monologue involves a speaker addressing a silent listener or audience, revealing their thoughts, emotions, and often providing insights into their character or situation. Browning's dramatic monologues are psychological, ironic, and explore complex human motivations and behavior. But Browning is not read much today other than some of the anthologized poems such as "My Last Duchess," and "Fra Lippo Lippi."

I remember a college class about dramatic monologues that used T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." It was a poem I loved and I went deep into the Eliot poems.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit...

These days I find Eliot less accessible than I prefer in poetry. For examples of the dramatic monologues, from more contemporary poets, I will point to a few poems.

In Judith Wright's "Eve To Her Daughters," she talks to her daughters about Adam's fall .Eve, talks to her daughters of her and Adam’s fall from Eden and his quest to become god-like, outlining his arrogance, but Eve stays submissive and loyal to him despite his flaws.

Eurydice, the mythological wife of Orpheus, speaks in the poem by H.D. with that name.

And Carol Ann Duffy's collection, The World’s Wife, presents stories, myths, fairy tales and characters in Western culture from the point of view of women, very often giving voice to the hitherto unsung women close to famous men. One of those poems is "Medusa."

A suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy
grew in my mind,
which turned the hairs on my head to filthy snakes
as though my thoughts
hissed and spat on my scalp.

"The Angel with the Broken Wing" by Dana Gioia is the our model this month. It is a poem that I tore out of a copy of POETRY magazine 14 years ago and came across in a file folder this month. This dramatic monologue is spoken by a wooden statue carved by a Mexican folk artist. The poem is about the statue's history and its fate as a museum piece. The poem uses irony to convey that the angel with the broken wing is not actually an angel, but a statue of an angel. There is also irony in that its wing was broken by soldiers during the Revolution who were, perhaps, sparing the rest of the angel out of fear of God. "They hit me once—almost apologetically. / For even the godless feel something in a church."

For our next issue, we are looking for dramatic monologues. Your speaker - famous, mythological or even from your life, but not "you" - addresses a silent listener or audience. In the classic sense, the poem reveals their thoughts and emotions in a psychological,often ironic, way to give the reader some insight into human motivations and behavior.

submit The deadline for submissions for the next issue is May 31, 2024.
Please refer to our submission guidelines and look at our archive of 25 years of prompts and poems and follow our blog for more about the prompts and poetry.

image Michael Dana Gioia, born December 24, 1950, is an American poet, literary critic, literary translator, and essayist.

Since the early 1980s, Gioia has been considered part of the highly controversial and countercultural literary movements within American poetry known as New Formalism, which advocates the continued writing of poetry in rhyme and meter, and New Narrative, which advocates the telling of non-autobiographical stories.

Gioia has published six books of poetry, including 99 Poems: New & Selected (Graywolf Press, 2016); Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press, 2001), winner of the American Book Award; The Gods of Winter (Graywolf Press, 1991); and Daily Horoscope (Graywolf Press, 1986) and five volumes of literary criticism as well as opera libretti, song cycles, translations, and over two dozen literary anthologies.