Then I said I was a poet, a love poet. You would have thought the group of young Christian from the Bible Study just thought I said that I was a closet pagan by their reaction. Interesting. I have run into similar reaction through my life as a Christian. Saying I am a Christian and a poet seems like a contradiction to many Christians. But I have learned to have an answer, and yes it is Biblical.
There are, of course, Christian poets. Though many of the best, think Denise Levertov or Galway Kinnell, are largely unknown to greater evangelical world. Many of the popular poetry in Christian circles has too strong a scent of sentimentality to move us deeply. The sentimental only reinforces and never creates, hence it has more value for greeting cards. Most of this poetry is written in an artificial formalism with a forced rhyming scheme. I write serious poetry, and add to this that I write love poetry and I am an odd fit for many Christians.
I have also run into the reverse problem, though, especially when I was in Seminary. When some Christians find out that I am a poet, they confess they too are poets. They show me their poems. They would confuse self-conscious shocking or anger toward other Christian for profundity.. Most of this verse would be written a chopped up prose pretending to be free verse. The idea that poetry is an art with the art form was foreign. This has always been a mystery to me. I think that because I studied poetics before I converted made me aware of this large tradition of poetics. I write poetry because I love reading it, which leads me to say my answer to those who gave me weird looks because I writing poetry.
I remember an Old Testament professor with the proper academic suspicion of poetry needling me for writing poetry. Why would I waste time writing such stuff. I answered by asking him why was most of the Bible written in verse? Maybe God loves the poet. Certainly he loved King David. The mystery to me is how can Christian read so much poetry and completely miss the poetry.
Today is Valentines Day. I wrote a book of love poems. And here is one I worte for my wife. I understand God’s love of poetry.
The Splendor of Living Blood
Let us make a bargain. Let us make a covenant
to stand before our love, covering up our death
with the new life. Together. Let me hear your mind
grinding out more of love’s accord. Let us shake
hands, and let love quake us out of our complicacy
and into eating salty bread. Let us get drunk
on the love of a wine that bursting open our old
skins. Shower us. Stain us. Stamp us in love.
Let this form our conversations and binds us.
Death will not see us, and we can hold each
other with the words fleshed out. We can then
live in peace. Our history and our future extending
out into our greeting. Embracing, and caressing
the shoulders of our love. Let us enter this bargain.