I studied English at NSU, minoring in communications. That means that I, in theory, can speak English better after those four years. The jury’s still out on whether or not that’s the case.
In reality, that means that I spent a lot of time reading and writing. A focus on literature helped me narrow the scope of my studies to fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and even some film along the way. One class in particular impacted me more than most: creative writing.
The structure of that class was unique in my undergrad experience. Instead of weekly readings, lectures, and discussions, we learned a bit about a specific style of writing, we wrote short pieces in response to prompts, then we read our work to the class and received feedback. I believe that’s when my love of poetry really began. A free verse poem on Romans 5:8, a poem about the wonder of bacon, and a poem entitled “Manliness Explained” were my first three attempts to engage the art. Apart from a few off seasons, I haven’t looked back since.
So why do I keep writing poetry? Why put words into patterns with rhymes and rules? Here are three reasons.
1. Writing poetry helps me process emotion.
I’m usually not the most emotional person in any circle of friends. At least, I’m not the most outwardly emotional person. I struggle to articulate what I feel, so I often keep silent. I struggle to work through my emotions, so I sometimes avoid engaging them. With poetry, however, I can work through my feelings slowly, step by step. Writing helps me to sort out my cluttered mind and heart and see things a bit more clearly.
2. Writing poetry helps me clarify theology.
I cannot fully comprehend God. His ways are higher than my ways, his thoughts higher than my thoughts. The thought of his magnitude can overwhelm me. In poetry, I can consider him more methodically. As I look for the right word to fit the rhyme and rhythm of a poem, I must weigh every word’s theological significance. Some words may fit the rhyme, but they don’t fit God’s character. Other’s may fit his character, but not the rhythm. I’ve scrapped entire lines and sections because I felt that the words failed to accurately represent God. Writing helps me think about the Lord, and, in so doing, I pray I will grow to love him more.
3. Writing poetry helps me pray.
Often, my poems speak about God, describing his character and his work in the world. At other times, my poems consider man, examining life on this side of eternity. Sometimes, however, my poems are prayers. In these poems, I record my requests, my concerns, my realizations, my struggles, my joys, my hopes, my dreams. I lay out my words to the God who hears, organizing my thoughts before him and trusting him to listen.
I’ve said before that poems are like puzzles for me. There is joy in simply writing, satisfaction in feeling the page and the pen. I don’t diminish that blessing. But I pray my poems reflect more than simply a love of writing; I pray they reveal a vulnerable heart, a glorious God, and a child’s prayers. I fail in these goals more than I succeed, but I keep writing, for I find great benefit in the exercise. And I hope the fleeting words I write prove helpful to you.