Tag Archives: national poetry month

For the Love of Poetry (Pt. 3) – Exploring God

Image Source: CreationSwap

Image Source: CreationSwap

Today, can I share with you some words incredibly personal and dear to my heart?

When I first started writing poetry, it was a place to process emotion, to unload all that teenage angst, to play with words.

But then I read John Donne.  And he intrigued me.  I mean, first you have The Flea – this long, eloquent discussion of a flea biting a man and a woman which turns out to be quite the elaborate (and can we say it – slightly ridiculous) pick up line.  And you have No Man is an Island, a brilliant consideration of the connectedness of humanity that has resonated with countless hearts across many generations.  And then – his Holy Sonnets.

Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God led me through new doors and down new paths as a writer and a Christian.  As I read these words again and again, my heart stirred to write about God this way, to know Him this way.  All throughout Donne’s Holy Sonnets, he pulls on unique images and concepts that help you see God through fresh eyes.  Sometimes it’s uncomfortable; always it’s enlightening.

So I began exploring God through poetry.  I began, if you will, documenting my spiritual journey through poetry.  I learned what it meant to pour my heart out to Him – to hold nothing back, to be laid bare, to not be afraid to be brutally honest when it was hard or when I wanted to quit.  And to this day, when I am struggling to hear Him, when I feel like I am out of words to pray, I can find Him through the poetic voice in my spirit.

I do not share these poems often, but I would love to offer you three today.  And from the bottom of my heart, I would hope and pray they might draw you a step closer into His romance and mystery.



I saw my heart

tossed upon the jagged rocks.

I saw my soul

tumbling down the emerald hills.

I felt my bottled tears

as the icy rain fell.


But then I knew how all that has been:

my hemorrhaging heart –

the endless solitude that would poison my soul –

the relentless fear that would paralyze my heart –

the merciless desert . . .

Brought me to this intoxicating moment,


Where the wind brought us close,

where Your arms held me close,

and after so long a silence –

You whispered my name.


The Sea

I am so small,

staring into the face

of a blue expanse

that could devour my existence.

And You, should You stand beside me,

would gather it all, beyond what I see,

into the palm of Your hand.


It is me You hold right now.


I see the reflection of Your eyes

in the shimmering surface.

My wavering, trembling soul

is stilled at last,

by the warmth of the flames in Your eyes,

by the breeze of Your lovely voice,

and the gentle fingers through my hair.



Invisible –

yet real as the air I breathe.

Blind to the things I can see,

I depend on the shadow

only my soul knows.


So soft – my velvet shadow –

caress my skin and fold

around my heart.

Hold it in Yours.


Rough – my stubborn shadow –

from holding this clay

in the blazing forge.

(Do not let go.)


Desperate devotion – I cling

to Your feathers and steel.

I follow this solid phantasm,

adore the silken touch,

real as the air I breathe.



Filed under Creativity, Faith, Poetry, Writing

For the Love of Poetry (Pt. 2) – Pablo & Me

A little note before you read – I didn’t anticipate it being so long before I got to part two of my April poetry posts.  We were on vacation last week, and I intended to keep writing because down time should mean more free time for writing, right?  Turns out I massively underestimated the exhaustion brought on by chasing little munchkins through hiking trails, museums, trampoline parks, arts festivals and an assortment of dinosaur-related things.  So not much physical rest happened, but lots of soul rest, which is usually the more important kind of rest anyway.  And now, back to normal.  Or at least trying.

Image Source: FreeDigitialPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitialPhotos.net

The night I met Pablo was a Friday night somewhere in the first half of my college years.  I was spending Friday nights as I often did – perusing the shelves of Barnes & Noble, coffee in hand.  (I do realize this is not the conventional way college students spend Friday nights, but when you’re an introvert spending insanely large amounts of time around people 7 days a week, it’s best for everyone’s sanity if you hide out in a bookstore or library at least one night a week.  Possibly two.)

I had already selected an anthology of love poems to purchase and was glancing through it when I came across “Tonight I Can Write“.  Although I don’t distinctly recall, there’s an excellent chance I sank into a chair and read it over and over again.  (If you haven’t read this before, just go drink it in right now.)  I love this poem for a gazillion reasons.  The imagery.  The emotional tug of war.  The sweet memories mingled with the reality of loss.  The letting go.  It aches.  It sings.  I love it.

Who knows how many times I read it before the thought occurred to me to see if this was a “one-hit wonder” for Pablo Neruda or if the rest of his poetry was equally wonderful.  I found a volume of his work called The Captain’s Verses, and oh my heart – I was not disappointed.  Of course I bought it immediately and have read it a thousand times over. (Until it recently seems to have been lost when we moved or maybe I lent it to someone and forgot.  I don’t know.  For now, I’m heartbroken about being bound to such grown up things as budgets, but as soon as there is wiggle room for books, it will be my first purchase.)

Sometimes I read his poems in Spanish, even though I can only understand a handful of words and phrases.  It doesn’t matter.  The words still flow like music.  And in English?  Pablo transformed me as a writer, as a poet.  His words are raw and earthy and mesmerizing.  Even the handful that I’m not so crazy about have challenged me and stretched me because he pairs thoughts and images and descriptions in ways I would never have considered.  On more than one occasion, I have quoted him or been inspired by him.  I learned to do so much more with phrasing and line breaks.  I learned that it is ok to have certain images or ideas you are pulled towards again and again (for him, it seems to be the sea; for me, it is the night sky).  When I am ready to give up on words, his poems make me want to write again.

The poem below is one I wrote during college.  I needed to process a letting go, and I borrowed the title from a line in “Tonight I Can Write”.  (And I am choosing to share one of my own today because I couldn’t decide which Neruda poem was my favorite.  Just google him.  Read them all!)


Forgetting is So Long

The dream of you still haunts me,

though I’m pretending not to see it.

The melancholy song of you

still lingers in the evening air,

and so I hum another nameless tune,

slowly waltz away.

I will not remember you,

even as I glance at your familiar face.

The bittersweet ideas of you

still swirl around my spinning head,

and so I’ll hang a different memory there,

hope you fade away.


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Filed under Poetry, Writing

For the Love of Poetry (Pt. 1) – My Heart Loosed on the Wind

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

April is National Poetry Month.  How I did not know this before April 1 is a mystery, but never mind – I know now.  And while I won’t take up all my posts for this month with poetry, I absolutely must make some space for it because I LOVE poetry!

Oddly though, I didn’t always love it (I can’t even imagine myself that way, but it’s true).  I had some absurd notion that it was boring and too difficult to understand.  And possibly residual bitterness from being forced to recite poetry in some elementary speech meets but never winning.  But – it gets weirder – at one point I didn’t think I liked literature or English or anything of the sort.  Which makes no sense whatsoever because I have always loved to write and I have always loved to read.  Granted, elementary and junior high English largely consist of grammar rules and miserable things like diagramming sentences (gag!).  Somehow there was a disconnect that those wretched, boring parts were the essential building blocks and tools for crafting the words I did love (can I blame my teachers for this?).

Some well-intentioned person told me I would love English so much more come high school because there would be less grammar and more literature.  Can I just say – if there is to be any truth to that statement, maybe the freshman reading list shouldn’t include Great Expectations or The Red Badge of Courage?  I know there were other things we read that year, but I can’t even muster an idea of what other books were included because the misery of those other two overshadowed everything! Ok, and there was Romeo & Juliet, but – meh.

All this to say, I went into my sophomore English class with great trepidation.  Not only had the subject proved disappointing again and again, but the teacher at our school who taught sophomore and senior English was notorious for being the most difficult teacher ever.  Students referred to her as “Hitler”, and she thoroughly enjoyed giving them all a reason for perpetuating the nickname.  If you were in the hallways between classes, you could be guaranteed someone, if not several someones, would be out there bemoaning the cruelty and impossibility of Mrs. Spradling’s latest project or assignment.  In particular, there were rumors of a dreaded poetry project reserved most especially for sophomores, with bonus pains included for the honors class, which I was in.

Make no mistake – the poetry project was a mammoth beast.  We were given a list of 50 literary devices and were given the task of finding each device used at least twice in different poems.  You couldn’t count two uses of that device in one poem.  You couldn’t use one poem for more than – if I remember correctly – 5 devices.  We had to define each term and include a glossary.  We had to analyze 7 different poems – two with a very detailed method.  We had to write our own poems.  There was probably some other piece I’m forgetting.  Translation of all this?  I read hundreds of poems for this project.  Hundreds.  And do you know what happened?

I fell in love.  Head over heels, hopelessly devoted, stars in my eyes in love.

As a matter of fact I fell in love with all things literary that year.  No doubt about it – Mrs. Spradling was the hardest teacher I’ve ever had in all my born days (don’t even get me started on my senior AP English project where I had to analyze the writing style of C.S. Lewis and then write a paper as if I were him speaking and defending himself on something he was criticized for).  She kicked my tail!  But she unlocked a love of words I didn’t even realize existed in me.

(For the record, I still have my poetry project.  It’s a masterpiece.  Except the original poems I wrote.  I got a lot better.)


Poetry is like music.  Sometimes I want to sink my teeth into all the things the poet was trying to say.  Sometimes I could care less – it’s simply about enjoying the flowing sound of the words.  Sometimes it isn’t even about precise meaning – it’s just about playing with combination of words until they evoke the emotion you are trying to express.  You get to break all the rules in poetry.  You can be cryptic or you can be explicit.  You can be long-winded or to the point.  Sometimes form matters; sometimes it doesn’t.  It’s magical.

Throughout this month, I’d love to share some of my favorite poems with you and share some of the ones I’ve written.  And who knows?  Maybe it will ignite a spark in you or at least a new understanding.

So for now, I will leave you with the words of Pablo Neruda who says it best of all:

And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.


Filed under Creativity, Poetry, Writing