L.L. Barkat in God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us. “It’s a kind of active silence well-suited to the extrovert, wherein we welcome flapping sounds from the burden on our backs and express them in the space of a poem. The confines of limited space ask us to first listen hard, so we can later capture and powerfully communicate elusive truth.”“Writing poetry can lead us to intimacy and praise; it can also help us begin to listen to ourselves,” writes
No one who knows me would call me an extrovert. I’m generally on the quiet side, at least in public. I listen more than I talk; I observe more than I say. Quiet does not mean comatose. People in business tend to gravitate to A-type personalities; I’m not an A-type, although some of the best speeches I’ve written have come from working closely with A-type executives (“A-type” and “executive” are likely redundant).
My worst nightmare: to be thrown into a cocktail party with hundreds of people I don’t know.
And yet I write poetry (Barkat only said that writing poetry was well-suited to extroverts; she didn't say it wasn't for the rest of us). I wrote two poems in the past few days that were born in that active silence she talks about – the active silence of reading a really fine book and the active silence of contemplating a passage in the Gospel of Mark.
I didn’t expect to write the first poem, “Jacob’s Blessing.” But the book I was reading moved me to it. The poem began when I read about the simple gesture of a young man pointing his thumb at his heart and then pointing upward – an indication of his faith. The gesture may not seem remarkable, but the young made had suffered serious brain damage in a near-drowning accident. The telling of that story overwhelmed me; the silence of reading was suddenly infused with the silence of faith.
“Ego or Ego sum?” is the second poem. This poem on ego was well underway – in the silence of writing – when I connected to the passage in Mark, where Jesus says, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus is actually proclaiming himself to be God here, “I AM” (Hebrew: Yahweh), and it was either a colossal act of ego and blasphemy or it was true. I then moved to rewrite completely what I had been composing.
Why do these things happen in a writer’s or poet’s head? I don’t know, but they happened. The silence facilitated a kind of intimacy with the words in front of me; the active silence meant I was engaged; the result was an act of the heart.
The Bridge by Laura Boggess at The Wellspring.