Wednesday, May 13, 2009

sacred poetry

Last week I attended a Psalm-writing workshop. Ray McGinnis, author of Writing the Sacred, spoke about literary elements found in the Psalms and how to apply them to poetry that recognizes a relationship with a Creator.

Having just weathered a tragic death in my community, I was deep into lament. In one exercise, I repeated the phrase "In the day of misfortune." I wove in other phrases from a list of Psalm phrases to use as springboards.

In his day of misfortune
did your bountiful hand
rest on the truck driver's shoulder
as his bones grew weak
and hope waited?

Sacred poems are all around us. Some are explicit, like Gerard Manley Hopkins' praise poem "Pied Beauty."

Glory be to God for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

Others are implicit, like Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese."

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

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