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Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

recently there was an article in the guardian entitled Religions are Poems which caught my eye because for me poetry is an incredibly important part of my spirituality and at some point in the future I would love to do some proper academic research on the cultural and spiritual relationship between poetry and prayer. Despite the title of the piece it actually seems as if it arguing that poems are religions than the other way round.

After the introductory paragraph, the writer of the piece, Nick Laird argues

A good poem is a closed belief system

I actually really disagree with this, I think a good poem needs to be an open belief system, needs to give the reader many ways of entering, exiting and moving around in it. To be a closed belief system a poem would have to lay all its meaning out on the table and be static and rigid, any poem that does all those things is a bad poem.

He talks about how through the use of poetry he was:

I was trying to create, I think, a kind of religion to supplant the one I was raised with, and have now lost. In my part of the world the village religion that achieved full spectrum dominance is Christianity, and I was trying to supplant its dominance of my own mind. I am struck by how often I think of things in biblical terms.

This makes a lot of sense to me, i grew up in a christian community and sometimes it feels to me that the pathways in my head that make poetry important to me are the same ones used in religious ritual and experience, the fusing of structure, ritual, and rules, with instinct emotion and heightened senses. Also something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is the relationship between the bible and poetry. I have been thinking how one of the reasons the bible is misunderstood both as a literary artifact and as a spiritual artifact is because those reading it often have no understanding of poetry, but it strikes me that maybe the way i relate to and think about poetry has been deeply effected by my knowledge of the bible, large parts of the bible are very poetic,song of songs, psalms, Isaiah, even revelation if you take into account its extreme use of metaphor. and if you grow up in an environment where you have so much poetry in your life without you even thinking about it as being poetry that has to effect the way you relate to writing that is actually deemed as poetry.

Laird writes

The relationship between poetry, those goodly words, and religion is hard to quantify. Both involve the hidden, working at the borders of the sayable.

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I love this, this is so beautiful. the reason I think poetry is so important is because it is working at the borders of the sayable it is constantly struggling to find ways to make the unsayable say able, it is constantly twisting and turning to give us different angles to look at things, different languages to speak in. and I never thought about it but yes, religion also is working at the borders of the sayable, or at least evolving alive religions are and this maybe why the pathways in my head that poetry flows down are the same ones that spirituality flows down because at the end of they day they are both trying to do the same thing.

Laird then goes on to present a critique of the lord prayer as if it were a poem:

The Lord’s prayer is one of the first poems I learned. Leached of its import by years of mindless recital, it’s almost a Sitwellian sound poem to me.

Our father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those
who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom,
the power and glory,
forever and ever, amen.

The verse uses an octosyllabic baseline and contains plenty of the features we expect in poems. Even though it is syntactically complex (it’s only two sentences), the lines are heavily endstopped with solid, repetitive masculine endings and there is a lot of sound play. In “trespasses” the feminine ending (meaning that the last syllable isn’t stressed) seems to replicate the very act of trespass – by going one step further than it should – and that “amen” is a neat full stop, a click on the send button of the email to God.

I personally think this is inspired because as i say I am really interested in the poetry/prayer relationship but i never ever thought about the lords prayer as a poem before which really reinforces what laird says about how it has been Leached of its import by years of mindless recital I also love how he describes it, a two thousand year old prayer, as an email, and i think poetry does that, poetry give you away of avoiding worn thought grooves and enables you to swerve of in other directions.

he goes on to say

Poetry can hold oppositions in equilibrium. Life tends to paradox and poetry can cope with that. Doctrine attempts to clarify and erase the contradictions, to organise lessons, laws and belief systems. Doctrine insists on an ethical dimension. It insists the scriptures be prescriptive. Poetry, being many-headed, doesn’t try to cohere. It is free-floating, various, associative and each poem sets out its own rules.

We live in a world that values streamlining, simplicity, absolutes and lack of complexity or contradictions but i am a fractured mess, i am full of oppositions, I’m bisexual. I’m multiple and I appear to be following both a pagan and christian path but I think the thing is that everybody’s complicated and nobody fits the streamlined capitalist patriarchal ideal of what a person is and i think poetry if we utilize it properly could both give us ways of dealing with that but also give us ways of changing that. Poetry takes us away from the prescriptiveness of dead religions and the rigidity of the current society we live in.

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thinking about goddess

Earth Goddess

Earth Goddess

Cerridwen

Cerridwen

stoneag_willendorflg
goddesses-moon-goddess

mothergoddessearth

Over at Don’t Stray from the path Debi crow writes a post about Monica Sjoos God Giving Birth

I really love this picture. The woman who is mentoring/teaching me about paganism sent me a copy of it to meditate on.

Goddess images, of the sort that resonate with me are not easy to come by. If you type “Goddess” into google image search you get pages and pages of young skinny women and really that’s not how I envisage any goddesses at all

Growing up in a religion that is extremely patriarchal and not woman nurturing makes it difficult to hold the idea of goddesses in my head because the idea and concept that god is male is laid down at bone level so realigning myself to the possibility of a female god is not easy. And one of the ways of combating this is to use the images i have found that do resonate with me to meditate with

One of the things I find difficult in the way people talk about goddesses. there is much talk about the power of the menstrual cycle and the power of menstruation and childbirth and I understand that as a way of reclaiming that is okay to be a woman, of reclaiming the things patriarchy denigrates, and i think this is a really important thing to do but I am uncomfortable with the emphasis on it. Where does that leave those of us that don’t bleed? those of us whose bodies cannot bear children? we are sidelined and made to feel spiritually abnormal when we already feel physically abnormal.

I think there are lots more we can learn from goddesses either as metaphor or reality that are not about how being a powerful woman is about bleeding and giving birth. There are ways of thinking about fertility that don’t have to involve women’s bodies and there are ways of thinking about a cyclical world that doesn’t have to be about menstruation.

Also to often I think always thinking about goddesses in terms of blood power/body power/birth power just recreates patriarchal models of the way we think about women

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Samhain:We grieve

Each of these songs coresponds intimatley to people who have been important in my life that died. I was going to write about them as well but changed my mind because i fellt that was too personal

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