“Hearts on Pilgrimage”–The Preface From my Upcoming Poetry Book

Dearest Readers, thank you so very much for your blessed response to  launching my new book into the world. January will be here before we know it; until then, we will walk out all the days God gives us one at a time. They are truly in His hands. Below you will find my ((almost ready)) Preface to let you know what’s in store in the pages of Hearts on Pilgrimage. You will find out the whys and wherefores of this project, as well as a nudge to help bring more poetry into the world.  If you’d like to join the Launch Team, the application is HERE.** 

The Path

When I said my initial yes to Jesus over 40 years ago, I found poet Luci Shaw’s first book, Listen to the Green and was overcome with the perhapses and possibilities of being a poet. I am adept at saying way more than is needed to communicate a point. What would happen, I wondered, if I intentionally pared down my words to say more with less? Listen to the Green was the inspiration and beginning of my journey into poetry.

I managed to scribble random lines, gathering thoughts in the margins of my days between chasing children and teaching school. Most of it was very bad “poetry,” but it was a start. As I chose to grow and learn, I invested in an informal education, “the school of 3,000 books,” as poet Barbara Crooker would say. The volume you now hold in your hands is the fruit of that learning, a culmination of inspiration and encouragement from poets I’ve had the pleasure of reading and learning from along the way– Laurie Klein, Scott Cairns, Malcolm Guite, Luci Shaw and many others.

The Process

When I began the draft of Hearts on Pilgrimage it was early Spring 2020.  I had been approached by a friend about placing my poems in her care for their possible publication. After a time of waiting and listening, the work landed back in my lap while our collective lives were put on permanent pause by the entry of a disruptive and devastating virus. Life in the time of corona has wreaked havoc on life as we know it. Knew it. But if we are listening, there are lessons still to learn about what we have lost.

I will never look at Spring the same way again, but I am hopeful. And that is the purpose of Spring–God’s eternal message that new life will come from what seems lifeless and gone. Winter’s barrenness provides a Creation backdrop that speaks to God’s presence in the middle of life when everything has been stripped away, and no year illustrates that more than this one.

Accompaniment {a #poem}

pexels-photo-414181
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Birds, their tones both winged and bright
Harmonize from branches out of sight
Know their parts, score memorized
Flash and zoom before my eyes.

Soprano, alto, second, bass
Throaty praises from branchy place
Echo, float, reverberate
A pause, then celebrate

Mornings’ rise first slow and quiet
Against dull backdrops now a riot
Their songs a span of treble and bass
Background my day, this hallowed space.

*****

The daybreak song of birds seems brighter and more clear than ever before. Have you noticed? I tried to to capture their music ((impossible)) by playing around with meter and rhyme. I hope the joy comes through the verses.

{{Also? I’m working on my second book, a self-published volume of poetry. Working title: “Hearts on Pilgrimage~a Poetry Collection.” Stay tuned & in the meantime, you can click HERE to read more of my poems.}}

Phillis Wheatley, African American Poet

phyllis wheatley
From Poetry Foundation online
Several years ago in a biography of preacher and evangelist Jonathan Edwards, I read the name of  “slave poet” Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784). Wheatley wrote an elegy (poem on the occasion of one’s death) for George Whitefield, one of Jonathan Edwards’ dear friends. Whitefield and Edwards were pillars of the Great Awakening that swept the world from England to the United States in the 1700’s and Wheatley had been greatly affected by the move of God in her own life. In fact, much of her strong Christian faith shows up in her poems, which I soon found out when I went looking.
What’s astonishing to me is the language and voice of Wheatley’s work. She was brought to America from Senegal/Gambia at the age of 7 and purchased by a family in Boston to purportedly “accompany the family’s children and share in domestic work.” As a result, she inadvertently was taught to read and write, receiving a stellar classical education alongside the children, something unheard for a slave. She read widely the literature and early works of Virgil and Ovid, John Milton and Shakespeare, and the style of her writing reflects this classical immersion.
The more I read the more surprised I was, assuming that all African slaves in the 1700’s were illtreated and illiterate. Thanks to my Sophomore English teacher, Dr. Kehl, I learned to love the language and style of Shakespeare’s writing (though I often needed assistance in deciphering his meaning.) When I first became a Christian I enjoyed the King James Version of the Bible for just that reason. Reading Wheatley’s poetry was like reading Shakespeare and I was drawn in.
Thanks to her owners and their wide circles in Boston society Wheatley’s work was known and shared widely in Boston and across the Atlantic. Her first published poem was printed when she was only 13 and she went on to write many, many more. Mary Wheatley, Phillis’ benefactress, saw to it that bookseller Archibald Bell begin to circulate Phillis’ work, and the debut edition of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was published in 1773. Poems on Various Subjects was the first volume of poetry by an American Negro published in modern times. Its readers included notables like Benjamin Franklin, among others and was well received and widely supported.

The Next Best Yes {a #poem}

view of cda lake from room
C’oeur d’Alene Lake, ID 

 

Now

Let 

And 

Yet

How can the power of my surrender

be wrapped up in three slight letters?

A mix of mercy in a single syllable?

And yet.

Placed just so, like fine crystal

refracting evening sun into shards 

of light, they precede each sentence,

illuming my way to the next best yes.

***

I’m grateful to Jesus, who is eternal and an all-at-once God, that we are bound by time.

That we are asked to step into our days one at a time, one yes at a time.

 

Silence Ascends, Sunday {a #poem}

P_20190130_081852_vHDR_On-620976672-1549500404116.jpgThere’s a lot one can say
     about the power of being 
     quiet (yes, I see the irony).
When listening forefronts the mind
     other senses muscle their 
     way into place (the ears above
     all) take in the not-words
     simply song, hum and tone
     in counterpoint.
No addition necessary; I am
     mute, yet the Word bursts
     alive, verse and chorus rise
     without me. The truth
     needs no help to stand.
Even when I’m not singing
     even if I’m not yes-ing it.
Sometimes you don’t get an amen.