Tuesday, June 05, 2007

There’s No Such Thing As Secular Poetry - Martin

There’s no such thing as secular poetry. When I slipped in late for an English degree at University of Waterloo, in my late 20s, I found that this was one place where one would have a lot of trouble avoiding discussions of God.

Consider how so many writers in the canon of English Literature wrote from a Christian world view — whether they were men of faith or not. The purpose of literature, as seen in centuries past, was to instruct and improve the audience. You can easily see this from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Dickens.

Beyond this backdrop you’ll see that many significant poets would boldly proclaim themselves to be followers of Christ. Listen to these lines from a John Donne sonnet, and imagine a professor trying to talk about anything but faith!

Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.

Poets always read poets. I doubt there is an English-speaking poet anywhere, of significant skill, who is not at least a little familiar with poets such as John Donne, John Milton, William Blake, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and T.S. Eliot.

Since poets always seek to write about things that matter, how can the big questions of our mysterious existence, about good and evil, about suffering, or about the after-life not crowd into our verses? Is it too much to say that there is no secular poetry? Poets seem the most susceptible to the spread of God questions into their writing.

Literary minded unbelievers have been primed for God’s truth to come their way through poetry. Our generation needs to make our Christian voices heard, reminding the world that intelligent faith is still alive and vibrant, building upon our poetic heritage.

D.S. Martin is the author of So The Moon Would Not be Swallowed, which is available through his web site: www.dsmartin.ca

1 comment:

Tim said...

Wow, thats a good word. It is true that many poets when writing deal with good and evil, and possibly a higher being. That is certainly evident in my poetry. I enjoyed reading this.

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