Wednesday, March 29, 2017

“Praise: Poems” by Mary Harwell Sayler


Up to a third or more of the Bible is written as poetry, mostly in the Old Testament and certain quoted passages in the New Testament. While the single largest “block” of poetry is the Book of Psalms, one can also find poetry in the prophets, Genesis, Exodus, Judges, the history books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, and several others.

The Song of Solomon, one of the earliest love poems, notwithstanding, the poetry of the Bible generally focuses on praise. The reasons for praise are many and varied, but the poetry is largely poetry of praise. Consider the picture of ancient Hebrews reciting poems and singing songs of praise to their God, often in the midst of terrible trials and upheavals.

So it is with Mary Harwell Sayler’s new poetry collection, Praise. These poems are not all about thanksgiving, but have a broader reach and purpose. As Sayler says in the introduction, “Praise focuses in Who God is, more than what God does. Praise pours out our love to the Lord.”

The collection of 72 is divided into six parts – praise, prayers, Easter, creation, wonder, and Christmas. And they are indeed a pouring out love for who God is. These aren’t poems about deliverance from trials. The focus is more eternal than transient.

Praise Christ Our Body—

Who holds us together
in cell and membrane,
tissue and blood,
tendon and tears.

Praise Christ Whose Body
embraces
each part of us—
an ear, an eye, a knee,
a scalp, a head of hair
with each curl counted.

Praise Christ Who gave
His Body and
welcomes each one of us—

Into the Body of Christ,
the Church—

To work, to play
and pray together,
to love and forgive,
to worship as One Being
the Lord we adore.

Mary Harrell Sayler
As in this example, Sayler consciously incorporates the title into each poem, and that’s part of her purpose here – creating contemporary psalms. “Instead of titling them with sequential numbers, as later editors had done to identify the biblical Psalms, the first line of each poem became its title and an integral part of its reading,” she says.

Sayler has published more than 2,000 poems in a wide array of publications ranging from magazines and e-zines, anthologies, journals, and church publications. She has five poetry collections, including Living in the Nature Poem (2012); Outside Eden (2014); Beach Songs and Wood Chimes (2014); Faces in a Crowd (2016); and Praise. She’s written three books on writing, and maintains several blogs, including The Poetry Editor and Poetry.

Praise achieves what it sets out to do – its poems individually and collectively pour out love for who God is.

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Top photograph by Andrew Small via Unsplash.

4 comments:

Mary Harwell Sayler said...

Glynn, thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. May God fill us with ongoing praise!

JasonS said...

Wow, loved the example and I'll check out the book. Thanks for the heads up, Glynn!

Deborah Nyamekye said...

Congratulations Mary! I will have a look

Mary Harwell Sayler said...

Praise God! Thank you, Deborah and Jason.