Tuesday, May 15, 2012
learning to enjoy Christian poetry (what I'm reading: Lit! and A sacrifice of praise)
I'm sure some of you love poetry. Some of you probably find it boring or bewildering. But perhaps you're like me: you'd like to like poetry, but you don't know quite how to read it or where to start. I'm thinking of you as I write today.
I love reading, but I've always found it hard to appreciate poetry. I read too fast, and it's difficult to slow down and let the words sink in. That's starting to change, thanks to bloggers like Ali and Nicole. I've also been inspired by Tony Reinke's encouragement to read Christian poetry to kindle spiritual reflection.
One of the few things my son Ben wants to do when he has a migraine is to listen to me read, so once or twice we've read poems together. Some are from our old copy of The Norton anthology of poetry, others from A sacrifice of praise, an anthology of Christian poetry. If you want to get to know and appreciate Christian poetry, this is a wonderful place to start (I bought it Reinke's recommendation in Lit!, the book I've been blogging through recently).
Where do you turn when you want to read a Christian poem to your son? My first choice was God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), an English Catholic poet. This poem echoes uncannily in my mind, no doubt because my mum used to quote from it, especially the last two lines: she was an English teacher, and is far more poetry-buffish than me.
Like every poem, if you want to enjoy this, try reading it slowly and out loud. Read it again. Read it to someone else. Let the images sing to you of how God's glory still shines from his crushed and broken world. I want to commit this poem to memory so, next time I watch the sun rise over our back verandah, I'll remember how, in and after darkness, "the Holy Ghost over the bent / World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings".
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.