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The Language of Poetry – A Reflection

June 4, 2020
Pixie joins us for Midday Prayer.

I began writing some bits of verse while I was in my Clinical Pastoral Education residency in San Antonio. It was a way for me to process some of the difficult lessons that I was learning as I walked with the patients and their families in the hospital. Death, dying, serious illnesses, difficulties in the ICU/Pediatric ICU/Neonatal ICU, challenges on the Mental Health units, tragedy in the Emergency Department… all of these experiences tugged at my heart and very soul.

Now as we walk through this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic and civic unrest, my heart aches and looks for some semblance of peace. Believe it or not, I have found that peace in our times of prayer, reflection, and the sharing of stories with friends who are living in the “hotspots” in this nation and world.

Today I had my first Zoom opportunity to meet with my professor who is teaching the first course I am taking in my Doctoral program at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in St Paul, MN. As we discussed (the professor and another student who also lives and works in St Paul, MN) proposals, research methods, and questions which will become the foundation of our Proposal and Dissertation, I found myself becoming excited about where this process could go. The academic words which I had been slogging through in the readings thus far were not exactly inspiring. However, this week’s readings and our discussion today opened up the poetic process of researching and writing. The last thing I want to write is a dry and dusty academic tome which fails to inspire me, the review committee, or the potential reader who might choose to pick up the fruit of my labor.

As I considered the importance of language and theological study and writing, these words from Thomas Merton in his book The Sign of Jonas touched my heart.

I have attempted to convey something of a monk’s spiritual life and of his thoughts, not in the language of speculation but in terms of of personal experience. This is always a little hazardous, because it means leaving the sure, plain path of an accepted terminology and traveling in byways of poetry and intuition. (The Sign of Jonas, p. 8)

Words without the heart and spirit of an individual mean nothing! My prayer for me and for you dear reader, is that we can make an impact not only through our words, but through our actions. May the voices of the poets enrich and enliven our hearts as we seek to be the hands and feet of Christ during these challenging times.

  1. pynkoski2 permalink

    Merton’s “Aubade: Harlem” anticipates James Cone by linking the lives of black children and the cross; “Chant to Be Used…” conspires to link together the Holocaust, the Viet Nam war, and a call to repentance for the complicity of our silence. And both Cone and Merton speak of the power of the spiritual and the blues. Theological poetics?

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