Poetry invites us to notice and to explore
– the symptoms, confusion, loss, grief, and uncertainty of chronic pain and illness; to collect the moments and small victories; and to discover God’s still small voice in brand new ways.
WHAT IS POETRY?
By nature poetry is challenging to define. Some of the greats provide a bit of insight:
William Wordsworth wrote, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.“
Robert Frost said, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
And Mary Oliver stated this, “Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
POETRY INVITES US TO NOTICE
It invites us to notice – the slant of the late afternoon sun; the cool, refreshing water pouring from a tap; crisp sheets fresh from the line; the sweet nuzzle of a puppy; the bubbling laughter of a child; the smell of rich, black coffee; the creak of a wooden stair; the sigh of wind through firs – and to explore – the symptoms, confusion, loss, grief, and uncertainty of chronic pain and illness; to collect the moments, days and small victories; to follow the rhythm and sway of the words as they find their way to the page; to dip our fingers deeper into the wellspring of our faith; and to discover God’s still small voice in brand new ways.
“…[P]oetry,” writes Phyllis Klein, “gives rhythm to silence, light to darkness. In poetry we find the magic of metaphor, compactness of expression, use of the five senses, and simplicity or complexity of meaning in a few lines.”
POETRY REQUIRES STILLNESS, PATIENCE, AND TIME
As an activity, poetry requires stillness and patience and time. Dr. Rowan Williams poignantly wrote, “… there are some poems that walk in and sit down. You hear them coming in … there are others where you have to listen and listen. It takes forever for things to assemble around the core.”
Rainier Maria Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet, wrote, “Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and try to cherish the questions themselves … Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.”
POETRY INVITES US TO LEAN INTO THE QUESTIONS
Illness challenges us with difficult emotions and strings of difficult days. Poetry invites us to lean into the questions we face without needing immediate answers, to pause and breathe and listen, to quietly notice.
Roger Housden said, “Poetry is a way of rescuing the world from oblivion by the practice of attention. It is our attention that honors and gives value to living things … that retrieves them from the obscurity of the general. Poems that galvanize my attention shake me awake. They pass on their attentiveness, their prayerfulness, to me … poetry can make us more fully human, and more fully engaged in this world.”
POETRY ENGAGES US
It engages us with our senses, creation, and God. Furthermore, It offers us a way to observe, to hold the moments in our hands, turn them over, and look at them from a new perspective. It is another way to process the emotions of chronic illness, to explore, create, and find our voice.
Poetry, as Mary Oliver might say, calls to us like wild geese from an open sky.
Poetry is an invitation to explore your story in a new way, to write about moments or emotions without specifically naming them, to play with the musicality of words and phrases; to choose words, punctuation, and line breaks carefully. There is no right or wrong way to read or write poetry, just an invitation to begin.
Poetry as Prayer
Writing our own psalms is about learning to express our emotions in an unedited way, it’s about giving voice to our joy and our pain. Writing haiku teaches us focus on a single moment, awakening us to the wonder of creation all around us.
Concentration became close to impossible. I would list the things I wanted to accomplish in my head, but often even the essentials slipped through my fingers. As morning became evening, I would remember all that I had not done. It wasn’t that I lost interest; I really did want to... Where was God?
How do I hold this living grief? How do I drink this boiling sea of suffering? Father, gather these shards. Redeem the years the locusts have eaten. Scoop up these bits and pieces, and hold them in Your Hands until Your grace floods every crevice...
Books We Love • Poetry
Book of Hours: In Shadow and Sun
Jamie Wright Bagley
For the souls who are crying out for nourishment in the midst of the pressures of daily living, this book is for you. For tired hearts feeling lost, scattered, restless, uninspired, this book is for you. For those who find their hours slipping past too quickly, and long to make their moments count, this book is for you.
Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver
Throughout her celebrated career, Mary Oliver has touched countless readers with her brilliantly crafted verse, expounding on her love for the physical world and the powerful bonds between all living things. Identified as "far and away, this country's best selling poet" by Dwight Garner, she now returns with a stunning and definitive collection of her writing from the last fifty years.
Part memoir, part humorous and poignant defense of poetry, this is a book that shows you what it is to live a life with poems at your side. Megan's story is one you won't want to put down; meanwhile, her uncanny ability to reveal the why's and how's of poetry keeps calling—to even the biggest poetry doubter. If you already enjoy poetry, her story and her wisdom and her ways will invite you to go deeper, with novel ideas on how to engage with poems.
An anthology of most of the poetry of Amy Carmichael - 565 poems gathered from her published books. The untitled poems were given titles and all were arranged by the editors under seven major headings: worship, petition, surrender, ministry, wartime, encouragement and youthful thoughts.
Marilyn Chandler Mcentyre
Readers are invited to consider what caregivers and medical professionals may learn from poetry by patients. It offers reflections on poetry as a particularly apt vehicle for articulating the often isolating experiences of pain, fatigue, changed life rhythms, altered self-understanding, embarrassment, resistance, and acceptance.