Poetic Spirit in the City

It was Race Day in Chester in Saturday as we came together at Retreat House Chester for the more gentle pursuit of the poetic spirit. 

Poetry and spirituality inhabit a common landscape. Derek Walcott, whose poem Love after Love was amongst those we read, has said, ‘I never separated the writing of poetry from prayer.…it is a vocation.’      

The writer Mark Oakley comments that God gives us our being; we respond by offering our becoming. Poetry is uniquely qualified to accompany us on this faith journey. It is soul-language, the language of possibility, capable of transfiguring the ordinary and tracing the extraordinary.

We began by looking at Psalm 23 as a lyric poem. Focussing on its personal voice and the immediacy of its images – the Lord as shepherd; the shadowed valley – gave us a fresh slant on a familiar text.

We moved on to apply the traditional Benedictine practice of reading Scripture known as Lectio Divina, to a poem. The approach is one of slow, repeated reading, open to the particular word or phrase that catches our attention, and then to making our own meditative response.

We found that simple words like ‘Sit’ or ‘stranger’ from Love after Love ; ‘locked garden’ and ‘it’s not reversible’ from Jean Sprackland’s Healer, or simply the title of Tripping over Joy by Hafiz, could bring into a stillness beyond ‘a thousand serious moves’ or open doors to exploration deeper within.

Finally we responded to more poems with the creativity of our own writing – a daunting prospect for some. But each of us found that generating words brought us to places we would not have anticipated, once we took the plunge into the page’s white space. One wrote a Blessing for a family member in a particular situation; another brought together words from the various poems we’d encountered together to create a new piece tapestried from the workshop. 

Running such a morning can feel like making a poem in itself: within the set boundaries of space and time, I can never know quite what will emerge, only that it will be unique. 

Such journeys call for trust in an outcome even though, as in Jan Richardson’s opening words in Drawing Near: A Blessing for Advent : ‘It is difficult to see it from here.’

Poetry and spirituality ask us to choose the adventure of an open-ended process. In writing a poem, I can find myself intentionally having to take off the lid, which is often lurking in those final too-tidy lines. In our individual time over the morning, I deliberately sat with a poem I’m still having quite a conversation with – Adam Zagajewski’s Try to Praise the Mutilated World . (How far are we to praise the world as it is now, as we look through the lens of memory before its mutilation?….etc.) 

Our morning yielded some beautiful words and precious insights. Afterwards, coming out of Abbey Square into the city, I felt almost overwhelmed by all the colour, bustling vitality and noise. Such a change from when I’d arrived in the quieter golden Autumn light of earlier day. But now I was feeling different, too. 


(Visited 29 times, 1 visits today)
This entry was posted in Blog Posts, Creative Writing, Poetry, Spirituality and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


2 + eighteen =

Subscribe without commenting

  • About Julia

    Creative Connections combines my commitment to personal development through face-to-face work with groups or individuals, and the impact of the written word. As a writer I am always looking to see things from a new angle...

    Read more about Julia
  • Testimonials

    ‘I really enjoyed Julia’s knowledge and style of presentation. It was clear she knew what she was talking about. It was great to have someone lead the course who has
    done it for so long and knows exactly what she is doing.’

    Myers-Briggs® Workshop participant

  • Follow me on Twitter