a step toward some kind of wonderful: writing and reading poetry together

Jennifer Camp
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Jennifer Camp, co-founder of  Gather Ministries, and author of  Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both  Facebook  and  Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.

It is uncomfortable. Bold. Riotous. Maybe rebellious. But definitely good. The picking up a pen, collecting some paper, trusting that a word, and then another–the expression of a breath, a memory, a pain that lingers and haunts–can be a way to join hands with the heart.

I am reading so many books now–about poetry and healing, and writing, in general. I am ambitious. Overly ambitious, maybe. Curious about poets and their craft. What inspires them. What bothers them. What makes them sweat and twist and groan.

I want to know what other people say about the power of writing and reading poetry. How it can bring understanding to confusion, comfort to grief, relief to pain. There is a heart beating within us–a heart beating with energy and vehemence. A world within us can open. We can learn who we are and what we are and how we are. This is no hyperbole. In sum: we can learn all these things and be okay, at the same time, to not push too hard, quite yet, to know why.

Let the poetry do its work. Trust.

But together, as readers, we listen. We listen to deciper our own hearts as the poem, in its wild beauty, speaks. By the time we reach the end of the poem one thing is abundantly clear: we have engaged in a journey: we have walked through, somersaulted around, or capsized into a story that has engaged our emotion or left us staggering in apathy. Either way, we are not the same by the end of the poem as we were before we began.

Beautiful.

It is impossible to stay the same. It is impossible to read a poem and not be changed. Not unless, maybe, you were too busy getting the peanut butter off the roof of your mouth while you were attempting to read the words on the page. Yeah, I get it. That’s a good excuse. Or, unless you were distracted by your injury–when your foot got smacked by the hard metal thing on the electric scooter and you were too embarassed to tell your friends so you never iced it and now it’s swollen and hurting like crazy. Yeah, that would be tough. 

But let me tell you this: if you can’t read a poem, for whatever reason, do this: listen to the way it sounds; be attentive to the way it makes you feel; then simply observe it. Let it sit in front of you: crawl around on the page. Or, if you are feeling a bit antsy, push it on the swings. It might like that. (And you’ll calm down a bit too.) Or, how about this: put wallops of strawberry jam on it and eat it, for goodness sake. But just pay attention to it. It’s reasonable. Maybe. 

In any case, it’s worth the effort, as poetry, I am finding, both the writing of it and the reading of it, helps us hear what our hearts don’t otherwise know how to say.

So, what is your relationship with poetry? How do you feel about it? Many of you here–how delightufl this is!–have jumped in with both feet saying, yes, yes, I am with you! I am writing too! (Do you know how very fun this is to me?) As we write, we embark on a daily rescue mission of listening to our hearts: we write the stories our hearts want to tell us. This is wonderful.

So, like I told you before, I am just feeling my way along. Stumbling along with you. Listening to my heart and attending to its needs the best I can. And this has meant, for me, writing poetry five days a week. Every weekday. Getting up early. Not because I have to. Not because someone is bossing me around with a wagging finger saying I need to. But because it is fun. Because it is mystery. Because it is healing. Because it is good for my heart.

So that is why I am relunctant to decide for you what your adventure with poetry should look like. How would you like it to look? Do you want to read it? Write it? Journal about it? Sit with it? Would you like prompts to get you writing? Would you like a place to share it with ohers? Do you just like knowing that I am doing it and you are doing it and dozens of other women who are brave and wild and curious are doing it too, on their own, and that’s enough?

Tell me. Lean in and pass me a note across the desk. All folded and wrinkled up, in your best, scrawled, messy handwriting. Or, write me a simple, straightforward sentence or two in the comments. That would be good too. But tell me….when I wrote the post a week ago and invited you to experience poetry with me, what did you hope that would mean?

Can’t wait to hear from you.

xo,

jennifer

This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com

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About Jennifer Camp

Jennifer Camp, co-founder of  Gather Ministries, and author of  Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both  Facebook  and  Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.