Since January 1 I have carried two small books of poetry with me. I read them when I have a little time to myself in a restaurant, waiting room or even a few moments at home. Instead of scrolling through Facebook notifications one more time, I read poetry. Just the act of reading poetry makes one slow down. I purposely chose two poets who challenge me and whose imagery is deep and complex: Christian Wiman (Every Riven Thing) and Victor Klimoski (What it Might Mean).
Christian Wiman's spiritual journey has been complicated and winding. He has described himself as having various states of belief. He was diagnosed with a terminal disease and lived. He witnessed the birth of his son. One might say that Wiman has seen enough miracles to settle into firm belief. But life and faith are not that simple. His poetry is deeply spiritual. He asks lots of questions. As I read his poetry I can feel the sacredness in his questions and in his doubt. If we let them, questions and doubt can be guides in our own attempt to linger.
Victor Klimoski’s poetry is intentionally filled with spiritual images. He is the Director of Lifelong Learning at St. John's School of Theology in Collegeville, MN. Because he is surrounded by the beauty of the north woods, his poetry is also filled with God's work in creation. He gives voice to another side of my faith - the side that feels familiar and comforting. Many of his poems are inspired by the rhythms of worship and liturgy. As Lent begins tomorrow, I will shift my focus and reading to prayer. I have a beautiful book of prayers written by Walter Brueggemann ~ Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (If you are not a church geek, Brueggemann is a living legend in the area of Old Testament theology.) Each week in Lent I will find one prayer that speaks to me and sit with it – linger over it. Then I will create a piece of art inspired by that prayer.
Prayers, poetry and art are collaborators in my own spiritual journey. I admire people who can craft a poem or prayer to express their intimate longings and joys. I challenge myself in the same way but with images instead of words.
Tomorrow, for the beginning of Lent, I have an appointment with both ashes and art. One marks me as one who struggles with deep questions of my faith. The other is my way to let go of the struggle and live into it. I will keep you posted on my Ashes and Art project for Lent.