Poetry as Sacrament

Monday morning has consisted of reading the lines from a poem by Anita Barrows (which you’ll read below) and sipping coffee on my parents porch. These are the sacramental moments in the mundanity of Mondays – poems and porch sitting.

Poetry has been apart of my life since I was basically able to read and write. Coming back to my parents house these last few visits has allowed me to sift through boxes of my childhood. Finding old booklets full of my, some very dramatic, poems has reminded me of the need I have, and always have had for this genre of literature. I, in no way, believe myself to be an astounding poet, rather I am just someone like you, who loves to write and read it.

Poetry really has become a Sacrament in my life, and probably for you too, maybe without you realizing it. A sacrament is a specific practice, often acknowledged and affiliated within a religious ceremony. It is an outward or visible sign of inward spiritual grace. It symbolizes the touch of the divine in ones life. Poetry has saved my life, more than once. It, as some may say, has been “divine intervention” when the dark of night grows thick.

As C.S Lewis says, “Poetry is a little incarnation“. Parker Palmer elaborates on Lewis’s thought by writing, “Poetry helps me step, full-bodied into the day with whatever light I possess to do whatever I can to illumine the darkness“.

Poetry is full of nuance and paradox; two things life is very much made up of, often more than concrete understanding. It holds the tensions of the human experience more gracefully than that of our theories, doctrines and rationale. Poetry has a way of enveloping our senses and honouring our experiences by the use of metaphor, symbolism and pathetic fallacy. It’s as if the realm of nature and creation can speak more effectively to our emotions and appetites than our understanding of ourselves. Or at least, these figures of speech offer some illumination, a disentangling of our thoughts in order that we might continue on.

I have found poetry to be a profoundly spiritual experience; whether in me writing it or reading it. It opens me up to this other layer within myself, a soul level that exists no matter what comes and goes in my life. It’s like poetry touches “essence”, that part of us that always is and has always been, without alteration. Poetry gives us room to transform our experiences into art. It is elusive, mysterious and timeless, and often points to the human condition in subtle and hidden ways. It invites the reader to seek out its treasure, their truth.

Poetry, a sacrament – we need it, we hunger for it. In a culture that is so frenetic, busy, self-absorbed yet lacking self-awareness, we need the poets. From the past, from today and in the future, we need the writers of verse, song and rhyme. They remind us where we came from, what we’re made of and what we long for; something bigger than ourselves.

Let me leave you with a couple of poems. One of which has stuck with me recently, and two of my own.

Take, and eat of it.

Heart Work by Anita Barrows

“Monday. Bronze sunlight
on the worn gray rug
in the dining room where Viva sits
playing her recorder. Pain-ripened sunlight
I nearly wrote, like the huge
vine-ripened tomato
my friend brought yesterday
from her garden, to add to our salad:
meaning what comes

in its time to its own
end, then breaks
off easily, needing no more
from summer.

The notes
of some medieval dance
spill gracefully from the stream
of Viva’s breath. Something
that had been stopped

is beginning to move: a leaf
driven against rock
by a current
frees itself, finds its way again
through moving water. The angle of
light

is low, but still it fills
this space we’re in. What interrupts
me

is sometimes an abundance. My
sorrow too,
which grew large through summer
feels to me this morning

as though if I touched it
where the thick dark stem

is joined to the root, it would release
itself
whole, it would be something I could
use.”

___________________________________

Enough by Melissa Payne

“Learn to sit among the trees

with the sparrows

beside the sun.

Learn their way of seeing

through being

nothing else.

Born to welcome the morning

on time, every time

with whimsy and ease

these things

you cannot teach yourself.

No forcing, no striving

I know how much you like to try.

Learn to unlearn

be astonished.”

___________________________________

Autumns Hymn by Melissa Payne

The trees shed their clothing

yielding to winters refrain,

do you hear her cadence coming

chanting and cleansing

the earth

 

make it holy, make it holy, make it holy.

 

Summoning all

that is

to give in

let go

and die

 

even nature knows her destiny.

 

Pain is preserved within transition

from tips of branches

to twiggy ground

a dull ache hovers over, it

quiets her

make me holy, make me holy, make me whole

 

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3 thoughts on “Poetry as Sacrament

  1. Jenn

    Gah! You’ve done it again Mel! In a way that prose cannot fully describe, your poems have touched me today and awakened me into presence. Thank you for sharing.

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