How to be a Poet - Reflection by Canon Ellen


Read Canon Ellen's reflection for Tuesday, 13 October 2020.

God is the God of creation. Our God is a creator God, and God has fashioned us to be creative. The arts: visual, dramatic, musical, written – are ways we express beauty and joy. Whether we are the creators or receivers of art and culture this work enhances our lives, gives it colour, inspires hope and draws us into something of the very nature of God. Jesus was a teller of stories - a great gatherer of people in the creative endeavour of public speaking. I believe the creative work of the Holy Spirit keeps weaving beauty into our hearts and inspires us to seek splendour in the everyday.

I have missed going to exhibitions and the theatre, hearing live music, watching live comedy, seeing people dressed up and the visual excitement of street theatre and carnivals that usually are part of Liverpool life. Mark and I are still pretty much shielding and as such even the creative events that have opened up for many have not been possible for us. But, the written word, particularly poetry, has been a vital source of creativity for me during this time of uncertainty.

This poem is featured in the book that I have just launched. 12 Rules for Christian Activists: A Toolkit for Massive Change was written before covid-19. In it I explore what it means to be an activist – collaborating with a number of people from the Diocese of Liverpool, South Africa, USA and all over the UK. One of the chapters is about how we need to go gently though the world and tread lightly on the earth - being mindful of creation and the part we play in the ongoing gift of creativity. I wanted to share this poem by Wendell Berry with you this week.

I will be praying that each of us finds a small but significant times to enjoy being creative – times to take in the splendour of the God and of our wonderful ability to shape beauty. Also that there will be times when each of us can participate in the creative endeavour of God (even if we think we are not very good at it, or that it will never be shared with an audience).

How to be a Poet
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers 
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.          Wendell Berry

Canon Ellen

12 Rules for Christian Activists: A Toolkit for Massive Change is available in the Liverpool Cathedral bookshop – and you will get p&p free!

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