Edward Hirsch says this about the reading and writing of poetry:"There are people who defend themselves against being 'carried away' by poetry, thus depriving themselves of an essential aspect of the experience. But there are others who welcome the transport poetry provides. They welcome it repeatedly. They desire it so much they start to crave it daily, nightly, nearly abject in their desire, seeking it out the way hungry people seek food. It is spiritual sustenance to them. Bread and wine. A way of transformative thinking. A method of transfiguration. There are those who honor the reality of roots and wings in words, but also want the wings to take root, to grow into the earth, and the roots to take flight, to ascend. They need such falling and rising, such metaphoric thinking. They are so taking by the ecstatic experience - the overwhelming intensity - of reading poems they have to respond in kind. And these people become poets." This might seem like a leap, but I'd like to use a Eminem as an example. If you've seen 8-mile (not for kids, and not a "wholesome" movie, but brilliant none-the-less), you know that there is an intersection between fabric of his real life and the poetry he hears and in Detroit. The poetry comes out of the guts of real-life people.
[Aside: One of my favorite Greek words is splankna, a word that is used to describe Jesus' compassion for the people. It means "guts tied up in a knot." There are those times when our emotions are so raw and so powerful that our ability to control and suppress them (our normal modus operandi) is just on the edge, and our physical body cries out with our emotions - and our tummies hurt. The Hebrew people saw the stomach as the seat of emotion, much more of a physical reality that our "heart," even though they carry the same connotations. Since many of us (we Dutch people do this really well) have separated so well the physical from the emotional and spiritual, speaking of the "heart" allows us a little distance from the real pain we physically feel in response to our emotions.]
Marshal Mathers (the un-public-persona'd Eminem) feels the reality of the brokenness of his home life, the dilapidation of his hometown, the separation of white and black not only at 8 mile but throughout his world, the longing for real relationships and intimacy, and he hears these emotions in the stomach of the lyric beat. As Hirsch would say, he welcomes it, it transports him and becomes his bread and wine because the poetry has birthed words that are deeper than even he could understand.
[Aside: The early Christian thinker Paul talks about the Spirit groaning with words to deep for us even to understand that reflect the realities deep within us. I wonder... is there such a deep reality within us that we struggle to give expression to - the language of the Spirit - and that there are times when we crossover and begin to feel it, to touch it. Was this what CS Lewis was talking about when he described sensucht, that deep longing that is a taste of heaven this side of eternity which drew him to become a Christ follower? A glimpse? Is that what Hirsch's is saying about poetry? that it is a bridge which temporarily transports us... or he uses the word "transfiguration," echoing the moment of crossover when Jesus and his friends are on the Mount of Olives. Is this a type of spiritual sustenance? And to push it even further... Hirsch uses the phrase "bread and wine." Interesting. Why? Because the bread and wine are thought to transport us between earth and heaven, they are "sacraments," bridges from here to there. John Calvin thought that when we partake of the bread and wine during the feast of the lamb, that the entire congregation was actually transported (read "transfigured") for a moment across that bridge and into the heavenlies, to the throne-room of Christ. That's what a sacrament is. Hirsch is, in a sense, calling poetry a potential sacrament for those who dare to enter.]
More on this in the next post. This was going to be a short post... but it's created a bit more thought.
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