Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thirst — Recommended Reading — Martin

I read a lot of poetry. I dive in revelling in the imagery, the metaphors, the music — delighting in the lyricism, the voice, the possibilities.

One of the finest books of poetry I have read recently — perhaps one of the best I have ever read — is Thirst by Mary Oliver. She is an observer; she sees clearly what is in front of her, and reflects on it deeply until meaning emerges. Consider titles such as: “When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention”, or “When I Am Among the Trees”, and you’ll understand that she is a nature poet. She studies what God teaches us through nature, just as a theologian studies what God teaches us through the Bible. It was through her reflectiveness that she embraced Christian faith.

In her poem “Praying” she shares her way of approaching God: “just / pay attention, then patch // a few words together and don’t try / to make them elaborate, this isn’t / a contest but a doorway // into thanks...” Elsewhere she says, “I know a lot of fancy words. / I tear them from my heart and my tongue. / Then I pray.”

If you look into her background you’ll find that her lifestyle was not one that would be approved of in most Christian circles. I do not know to what extent she has repented of her former life, but
I do know that her poetry speaks of someone who has experienced genuine conversion.

She doesn’t hesitate to speak of Jesus, and even reproaches herself for not doing so more. “And I give / thanks but it does not seem like adequate thanks, / it doesn’t seem / festive enough or constant enough, nor does the / name of the Lord or the words of thanksgiving come / into it enough.”

If you don’t read as much poetry as I do, but are open to discovering just how beautiful and faith-inspiring poetry can be, I recommend Mary Oliver’s Thirst (Beacon Press, 2006).

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his poetry chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed is available at www.dsmartin.ca

1 comment:

Carolyn Arends said...

Just this very day my friend Barbara gave me a copy of Thirst as a gift. You are so right -- it's wonderful. I love the very first poem ... "My work is loving the world ...". Keep spreading the word! CA

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