Poetry Invites us to Notice and Explore


Poetry invites us to notice and 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.


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.”



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.”


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.”


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.”


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.

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Accessible Poetry

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 Prompts

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.

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Poetry Posts

Keep Listening

Life can get overfilled so easily with the voices and concerns of others. I maintained my regular morning quiet times but sensed a new distance from the Lord. I will seek. I will wait. I will listen still – but speak, Lord.


Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me."
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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.

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Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

David Whyte

52 ordinary words, each its own particular doorway into the underlying currents of human life. Each word inviting readers into a poetic and thoughtful consideration of words whose meaning and interpretation influence the paths we choose and the way we traverse them throughout our lives.

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100 Names of God

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

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.

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Guerrillas Of Grace: Prayers For The Battle

Ted Loder

An Embarrassingly Beautiful Collection of Prayers
For nearly two decades, this classic collection of tough, beautiful, and earthy prayers has lightened hearts and dared spirits to soar.

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If by Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael

A little book, based on First Corinthians 13, about showing Calvary love in common life. “If…I have not compassion on my fellow-servant, even as my Lord had pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

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The Joy of Poetry: How to Keep, Save & Make Your Life with Poems

Megan Willome

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.

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Mountain Breezes

Amy Carmichael

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.

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Patient Poets: Illness from Inside Out

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.

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