Uncategorized Mar 30, 2019

Perhaps it was inevitable that I would write poetry. I’ve always loved words—precise words, dramatic, literary words, empathetic words, even crossword puzzles. The specificity of words is of utmost importance to me. My favorite resource is Roget’s Thesaurus.


And yet…I didn’t think that I liked poetry. Whether in its classical, insistent rhythms and rhymes or more obscure modern free verse, I didn’t really understand it. So why in the world have I been drawn to participate in an artistic endeavor that I never liked?


I think as I get older I have grown to appreciate an economy of words. I’ve been on the receiving end of words uttered in anger with the intent to hurt. I’ve spoken inconsiderate, foolish words. I’ve listened in consternation as someone talks in circles with very little to say. I’ve grown to love Proverbs 17:27: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint.” And so, a few years ago, I became aware of how boring words can be when they go on too long.   As I wrote, I started cutting away extraneous words, ending up with something that looked like a poem.


Still, I didn’t really read poetry until my dear husband said, “Liz, if you are going to write poetry, you should read more poetry.” Pointed words, but so apt. And as we have several poetry books around our house, I gathered them in one place and began selecting a poem a day. I started reading about poetry. I picked out poets and poems and sometimes just one line in a poem that I liked and wrote them in my journal… like: “Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning.” (Dana Gioia, former Chairman of the NEA)


I don’t pretend to be a good poet. I don’t think I would call myself a poet at all. I’m like the Grandma Moses of poetry…primitive and self-taught. But I am so mindful of God’s purpose for words: He spoke and through word created everything, and then came as the Word made Flesh redeeming and healing us. Human words are thought-bridges that connect us with others. Wallace Stevens said, “The purpose of poetry is to contribute to man’s happiness.” If we sought with every thought-bridge to contribute to the other person’s happiness, maybe we would build another kind of bridge. Maybe we would build fewer declarative bridges and build more curiosity bridges, asking more questions and listening more. “Learn to LISTEN! I beg of you…listen to other people rather than steal their stories.” (Garth Stein)


The world we live in is drowning in words, and most of them are not beautiful or economical or apt. George Orwell wrote, “We ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language.” As true now as when he said it just after World War II! Maybe even truer now.