Friday, December 05, 2008

The Gift Of Poetry — Martin

As Christmas draws nearer it’s like we’re drawn back in time, like Ebenezer Scrooge carried magically by the ghost of Christmas past to things we remember from long ago, and those things we associate with this great celebration. This is where poetry dwells — in the associations we make in our minds, and in the part of us that makes meaning and looks for significance (for beauty, for truth, for goodness). The danger in this territory is that possibly we will settle far short of the things that really matter by contenting ourselves with the sentimentality of the season — even the religious sentimentality of a cute baby who never got diaper rash — rather than in the God of the universe on a risky foray into enemy territory.

During this Advent season, I want to encourage you to make room in your heart and mind and in your busy schedule for poetry that reflects upon the significance of the incarnation. Share such poetry with your family, with your friends; send it in an e-mail. Many Christian writers reflect on that first Christmas in their poetry (I, too, include some Christmas poetry in my new book Poiema).

One such poet, Luci Shaw, is particularly attracted to Christmas; over and over she gives us much to consider. Many of her Christmas poems have been gathered into the book, Accompanied By Angels (Eerdmans). She sent an earlier version of the following poem to me, in December, three years ago. With the permission of the poet, I include the published version for your reflection during this Advent season:

Breath by Luci Shaw

When, in the cavern darkness, the child
first opened his mouth (even before
his eyes widened to see the supple world
his lungs had breathed into being),
could he have known that breathing
trumps seeing? Did he love the way air sighs
as it brushes in and out through flesh
to sustain the tiny heart’s iambic beating,
tramping the crossroads of the brain
like donkey tracks, the blood dazzling and
invisible, the corpuscles skittering to the earlobes
and toenails? Did he have any idea it
would take all his breath to speak in stories
that would change the world?

From What The Light Was Like (WordFarm, 2006)

D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week; his new poetry book, Poiema (Wipf & Stock), and his chapbook So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed are available at


Marci said...

Good Idea, Don. I love Luci Shaw's poetry but wasn't aware she had a book of Christmas work. Will put it on my wish list! Thanks. Marcia

violet said...

Gorgeous poem - thanks for putting a spotlight on it.

Popular Posts