As a lover and writer of poetry, I sometimes feel discouraged by the fact that so few people value the art form. This has something to do with the way it is taught in school: badly, if at all. But the educational system simply mirrors the priorities of our society. And in a society driven by commerce, poetry is counter-cultural.
The speed of electronic media both fits and creates a hurried culture. Poetry doesn’t. No one reads a “quick poem.” Both the writing and reading of a poem require slowing down, stepping out of the current that rushes you through your day to stand on dry ground, watching and observing.
Poetry is being a child blowing on dandelion fluff for the joy of sending the seeds scattering on your breath. It’s cloud-watching, studying the pictures created in the shifting shapes. It is letting go of the impulse to control life and to become a student of it instead.
Poetry is becoming aware of your voice, your breath, the moment you are in, and everything your senses are recording in that moment. It is being acutely aware that you are alive, with the intensity and brevity of a flaring match.
Poetry moves us, the way music moves us. It is the music of language. It reminds us of our humanness by making us feel. Entertainment distracts us, but poetry causes us to feel.
Poetry gives us the freedom to soar above the gravity bonds of dayliness. It pulls aside the curtain for a fleeting moment to show us the larger story behind our “real” stories. We realize our days are recorded with close attention and deep interest by our Father. No part of them is dull or insignificant. It is our perspective that is dull and clouded, not our lives.
I write to bring some order, some beauty to the confused tangle of thoughts and feelings inside. Every event, from the most joyful to the saddest, becomes another jewel strung on the necklace of my days.
Creating is God’s gift to us, God’s way of taking the wreckage and broken pieces in our lives, and recycling them into something more extraordinary than the original. It’s how the ugliness and despair of crucifixion became the hope and glory of Resurrection.
God does not deny the reality of suffering. He just doesn’t believe in giving it the last word.
Writing draws the poison from the Serpent’s bite. Creating is an act of defiance against the darkness. God never stops creating, never stops rebuilding. Nature never stops sending green shoots through the concrete. It cannot stop. It is full of God’s indestructible energy.
The poet is the prophet, the truth-teller in society. Sometimes I believe the artist is closest to the heart of God, the Creator and Poet. As with all prophets, her rewards will not likely be popularity and wealth, but the joy of creation, and proclaiming the message burning inside.
For the poet, the greatest moments of satisfaction are not those of seeing her words in print, or being paid for a manuscript. The best moments are when someone says,
“I cried when I read your poem. I felt as if you were writing my story.” To reach out of our isolation and connect with another human being, to touch someone’s heart with our words, makes everything that went into the creating worthwhile.
God communicates with us through different means, but His greatest communication was through Jesus. I find it significant that one of Jesus’ many titles is “The Word.” What higher honour could God put on the poet’s craft than to refer to His own Son as Logos—the Word, the One Who communicated the true heart of God to the world?
Our ultimate goal as poets is not fame or publishing contracts, but to communicate God’s heart through our words. It is a calling that will require everything of us. God’s gifts are free, but not cheap or easy. But there will be those moments when we are not earthbound, when we soar and pull aside the clouds for an instant to show a peek at the dazzling light behind. That is the prophet’s reward.
The following poem is etched in a stone bench at the Marina Park in Thunder Bay:
by Marianne Jones
The city is newborn each morning,
Early light setting the harbour on fire.
God’s breath hovers
Above the lighthouse, the gulls, the Giant,
The streets with their sleeping cars,
The empty parking lots downtown.
Gulls walk on the ice
And the Canada Geese return north.
This is the holy hour
Before the noise of coffee grinders and news reports
Before the testosterone of traffic and commerce.
This is the moment to breathe in,
To be filled to overflowing.
Marianne Jones is a retired teacher and published author of four books. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, The Globe and Mail, and numerous denominational and literary publications. She was named International Christian Poet Laureate in 2010 by the Utmost Christian Writers Guild, and is a member of The Word Guild and League of Canadian Poets.