A Poetry Practice
How varied are your spiritual practices? Among mine are Centering Prayer, Visual journaling, chanting, silent walks through landscapes, shamanic journeying, Lectio Divina, Visio Divina, candle meditation, intimate conversations with others . . . and many more. I find that practices that were once awkward or uncomfortable are, in this season of my life, inviting. For example, poetry as a spiritual practice.
Rilke was asked, “How do you become a poet?” He replied, “There is only one way, go into yourself.”
Seeking to go inward through writing poetry, I considered a piece of family history that had surfaced in conversations with my spiritual director. I explored the memory with a do-not-stop-to-edit-just-let-the-words-flow free-write. Out of this flurry of words, I felt one aspect of the memory was asking to be tended to.
People write differently, of course. For me, a poetry formula offered in Poet Laureate Cathy Smith Bowers’ book, The Abiding Image, gave me the confidence to create with my written words. The recipe or guideline of the minute* poem appealed to my need for structure and directions. It loosened me up and felt like a safe space to experiment with bringing my thoughts and emotions to the page.
Writing this poem helped feelings to surface, it was a bit cathartic. It also gave me a way to honor the experience as part of my heritage:
Don’t bring Her, it will upset Her
I did anyway
a final visit
She was due now.
Her scarf-covered head stopped to peep
O'er the homeland
Grown trees, once were
sown by Her hands.
Square heels click-clack through empty rooms.
Sheers hang still,
through them we see
A lane we walked.
Sighs of farewell, the farm passed on
And so would She
Her face was drawn,
This too must be.
~ Schawn Kellogg
Reading poetry is also a way to go inward, to recognize inner movement and emotions of all types. I encourage you to search for a poet or poets whose writings stimulate you in some way. Maybe a trip to the library and a random selection would bring gifts. Maybe perusing some classics like Mary Oliver, Robert Bly or Emily Dickinson would be just what your soul needs. I hope you will consider poetry a companion on your spiritual journey.
I would love to hear your favorite poems or read what you author! Add them to the comments section below; or if you don’t want to create an account, simply email them to me: Schawn.SacredCentering@gmail.com.
Poems can be our ally, they say
One way inside
Where thoughts reside
Curiously brief, or drawn out
Poignant or proud
Angry or loud
It’s all allowed
Read for phrases now meant for you
Ponder or extract
Notice its truth
Or toss it back
~ Schawn Kellogg
*The minute form of poetry is a poem made up of 60 syllables, fit into 12 lines using the syllabic line count of 8,4,4,4 – 8,4,4,4- 8,4,4,4.