Random Acts of Poetry

Poetry and I go way back. My mother was a poet-in-the-schools, a traveling poet/writer who spoke at public schools throughout several states, teaching children how to write (and, ostensibly, how to appreciate) poetry. She traveled a lot during my childhood, my mother.

There’s a lot of history there, a lot of nights when my child-hand gripped a pencil and scratched out poetry on torn spiral notebook paper, scratched out my deepest fears, my empty loneliness, my longings and hopes. Crumpled pages collected under my bed, gathering dust, to be stuffed down into the trash can and covered carefully with less revealing garbage. When she was home, my mother would read me the poetry of other children. I heard so many life-stories shaped in childish print, formed with sadly precocious words.

Her workshop was called “Poetry as a Way of Looking for Yourself”. She is still looking, poetry alone has never been enough to fill that void.

Years later, I would use this tool, these sculptures in words, to write myself through some very dark days. Words tore from my pen, screamed out into the emptiness, formed the shapes of what I could not say aloud.

When Grace came into my life, when I knew God again and found peace, when the Son broke over those dark days and they passed into memory, I put poetry aside. Poetry, for me, was a coping tool, a measure of my heart, a barometer of my happiness….a way to draw myself up from the depths. It became inseparable from a broken history I was now set apart from, a history I finally could allow to be healed.

I didn’t really realize that I felt this way about poetry until I found a challenge: Random Acts of Poetry at Seedlings in Stone. Poetry Friday, at High Calling Blogs, made me think….could I write poetry from joy, paint that picture as clearly as I could in pain?

It’s been puzzling me, the last few days…how strongly I reacted to the challenge of writing poetry again, and (gulp) sharing it! It’s been the cause of some soul-searching and sifting through emotions and memories that, while they lack the power to bring me to my knees anymore, still lie packed away in my mind. Why can’t I write poetry anymore? Why do I balk at the idea? I love reading other people’s poetry, I love they way they can capture the full range of emotion and life with a few carefully crafted words, the way it drives straight to the heart.

I think I understand: I have, at the core, in all the ways that matter….found myself. In the end, it turned out that it wasn’t me I was looking for at all….I found who I was when I found Christ.

Peace, understanding, grace, love. Why can’t there still be room for poetry?

So I’m giving it a try. As rusty as it’s going to be, I’m not expecting much. But the Joy I know is far deeper, far more colorful, far more dimensional than the pain ever was….and that Joy gives the pain a new face, too.

Enough ramblings, here’s a bit of poetry scratched with (very) rusty pen…it’s a start, anyway.

grace enfolds grace
grace will be sufficient
sufficient for this day is my strength
my strength is in Jesus
Jesus is grace
grace enfolds grace


9 thoughts on “Random Acts of Poetry

  1. I love this post! I’m not sure how we let poetry become this high stakes thing where nobody is allowed joyful play unless their wearing berets and playing bongos. Even then, it has to be serious.Love your use of repetition here. “grace enfolds grace” has a nice ring to it.

  2. No beret, no bongos, hey Erica? But I bet you could dig out something cool from the closet in a pinch. :)That aside. I LOVED this post. Your thoughts about poetry, your moving description of your mother and that glimpse of your history. Wow.Now, what I liked about the poem was sort of what Mark liked. The phrase “grace enfolds grace” being repeated. But I think I liked it for a slightly different reason. The way it provides a visual enfolding, by being set at both ends of the poem… I really liked that.

  3. with the exception of line 4, i notice that you begin each new line with the same word that ends the previous one. i’ve reread this piece several times and each time i slowed my reading down more and more. i think the slow read is required here, in fact. as one who believes that all is grace, this poem embodies the message beautifully. thank you.

  4. My goodness. I had no idea I’d be coming to such a deep thinker when I visited here today. I’ve read the last several posts and really, really enjoyed them. As an English major, everyone, including teachers, expected a certain amount of poetry from me–and it may the only “word arena” in which I could never be a player. It just doesn’t happen for me, but I do enjoy others’ poems. And so I enjoyed yours. Mostly I’m rejoicing because of the vantage point you’re writing from now–grace-inspired joy. That’s wonderful. Keep writing; you’ve got a gift, for sure.

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