Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Writing Poetry

“Writing poetry can lead us to intimacy and praise; it can also help us begin to listen to ourselves,” writes 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.”

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.


M.L. Gallagher said...

I love the idea of 'active silence' leading to 'an act of the heart'.

Beautifully said Glynn -- and I am grateful it lead you to those two poems.

JC Dude said...

I think you "breathe" poetry, not just write poetry brother...and I'm glad you do.

Michael said...

To be honest, I've never enjoyed poetry, but the last two you have written and shared have really spoke to me. I really appreciate you Glynn.

S. Etole said...

and you could feel the heart in them ... they were/are powerful

Maureen said...

The mystery is the gift, and you use the gift well. That it involves the heart and its beating we do not hear gives it its power.

L.L. Barkat said...

I loved that little nudge about "the rest of us." Tickled. :)

Laura said...

These are beautiful poems, Glynn. Active silence...I like how you describe how it works for you. Reading a moving piece does that for me also. I think it opens a little door between our hearts and our minds--makes us want to share that feeling.

I love sharing Wednesday with you :)