poets as spiritual mentors

[A reminder of the spiritual potential in poetry and stories – and a recommendation for anyone looking for a prayer guide as we begin the season of Ordinary Time]:

Indeed, many of us might include a poet or an author, whether dead or living, among our spiritual mentors. On a quiet evening, curled up with a good story, we have encountered the memorable character, the articulate phrase, the evocative image, the small suggestion, the smuggled truth, the shattering epiphany, which changed us, and we weren’t even looking to be
changed. It enriched our lives, and we didn’t even know our own poverty. We were not the same people afterward.

Sarah Arthur, At the Still Point: A Literary Guide to Prayer in Ordinary Time

missing

[here is a poem from SSU ministry student, Jessica Williams; for an audio version and her further reflection on the poem see here]:

MISSING: GOD OUR MOTHER

Mother God,

How did you become another missing Woman?
Lost amongst the multitude of men making meaning for us all.

You are the Substance holding all things together,
and in Your likeness I have been made.

In feminine form,
I embody,
an image of the living God.

(I need to say it again.)

In feminine form,
I embody,
an image of the living God.

(We need to say it again.)

Is it any wonder that Your daughters have lived in exile?
That we are lost and missing too?

But–
some of us,
some of us,
some of us
have noticed.

We ache at Your absence,
our tongues dry
and thirsty
for Your name on our lips.

We are waiting.
We were waiting.
We are waiting no more.

Now, we are searching.
We’ve gathered a team. (We’ll take anyone!)
The more the better for work like this.

With arms linked together
and lanterns lifted high,
we’re walking through the tall dark grass of ancient texts
to find You.

God our Maker,
God our Mother,
God our Father,
God our Friend,

Teach us.

Like children coming of age,
we are starting to see
how much we didn’t see.

Show us.

How You’ve longed to gather us,
our Holy Mother Hen,
and there beneath Your Wings of Love,
to comfort us again.

Feed us.

Like an Eagle or a Mother Bear,
nourish those in need.
And then,
like all Good Mothers. . .

Set us free.

– Jessica Williams

word become flesh

….Good is the body, from cradle to grave,
growing and aging, arousing, impaired,
happy in clothing, or lovingly bared,
good is the pleasure of God in our flesh,
Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

Good is the pleasure of God in our flesh,
longing in all, as in Jesus, to dwell,
glad of embracing, and tasting, and smell,
good is the body, for good and for God,
Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

  • Brian Wren, from Good is the Flesh (ed. J. Denton, 2005)
    for the whole poem see here.

“…I was not busy when you came…”

[Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “Red Brocade,” was part of an early service I recently attended. Given the current climate of immigration in Canada and abroad, I think this poem is worth sharing.]

 

The Arabs used to say,

When a stranger appears at your door,

feed him for three days

before asking him who he is,

where he’s from,

where he’s headed.

That way he’ll have enough strength

enough to answer.

Or, by then you’ll be

such good friends

you don’t care.

 

Let’s go back to that.

Rice? Pine Nuts?

Here, take the red brocade pillow.

My child will serve water

to your horse.

 

No, I was not busy when you came!

I was not preparing to be busy.

That’s the armour everyone puts on

to pretend they have a purpose

in the world.

 

I refuse to be claimed.

Your plate is waiting.

We will snip fresh mint

into your tea.

 

– “Red Brocade” by Naomi Shihab Nye, from 19 Varieties of Gazelle

leonard cohen on creative work

Before I can discard the verse, I have to write it… I can’t discard a verse before it is written because it is the writing of the verse that produces whatever delights or interests or facets that are going to catch the light. The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.

– Leonard Cohen in Paul Zollo’s Songwriters on Songwriting – excerpt here.