Sometime back one of the best writers I’ve ever known or read tried to get me to begin to write poetry. I think I tried a bit, and I have written some, but that soon went by the wayside, as I continued on in the simple prose which marks my writing.
Now for some time I’ve been reading the psalms daily, which are poetry. I think we are probably adversely influenced by the overemphasis on reason from the Modernist Enlightenment. Contrast the so-called “Dark Ages,” referring to the Medieval Era, which to the Modernist is dark, but was actually full of light that the darkness of Modernism seeks to shut out.
Poetry is something one can’t completely pin down and explain. While it is open to some explanation, its appeal is not just to the intellect, but to the whole person, and to life as it is, in all its beauty and mystery. Sometimes even in its gloom and utter darkness. I think of the book of Lamentations.
Poetry can be like a good Impressionist painting in that it can help one enter into the experience, or more likely, find a correlation to one’s own experience, and that of which the poet was writing. It probably has plenty of room for imagination. And if read literally, as if it was some kind of completely rational document, it is open to all kinds of misinterpretation, since it is then read, not in the way it was written. I think of the catastrophic way the book of the Revelation is read, a book which while not completely poetry, has a strong poetic element to it. In fact we might do well to call it a poem in prose (though it has poetry, as well).
Maybe I’ll be trying my hand again at poetry in coming days. I would do so, not simply to write poetry myself, but to help myself and perhaps others, see something that prose can’t communicate. And to help any reader into something of the same language and beauty. Something similar to a good song.
In fact when we think of poetry, what might help us is to think of it in terms of good songs. One of my favorite song writers is Michael Card, whose lyrics and music help one think of life in biblical terms. And he has been writing helpful books, for example on the gospels, as well.
Probably the first and foremost reason that Anglicanism has such a strong appeal to me is because of the Book of Common Prayer, which so wonderfully and beautifully can say alot in a few words, and in a poetic way, which while theologically accurate, defies our own rationalistic and therefore limited thought. Something actually like what the Bible itself does, a book which scholars have come to understand is full of much more poetry than was known, say in the era of the King James Version of the Bible, the beauty of which to some extent at least, would seem to make up for that.
Poetry has its limits. We do need direct and clear counsel which cannot be misunderstood, clear teaching to inform our lives, our living. Words which hopefully are not easily given to misunderstanding.
I can’t help but think of our Lord’s parables, which are full of light, but only understood by those whose hearts are open to the Light. So that in them is a strong element of the poetic.
But the poem helps us begin to see something of the Mystery which is God, and God’s will in Jesus, which accompanies that. To help us by faith enter in, and begin to live and breathe in that air, and beauty, in a world that wants to, but can’t shut it out.