the breaking open: using poetry for a new way of seei

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.

I was looking down. Notebook in my lap. Not writing. Not thinking much either. But drawing inward. Listening to my breath. Asking my heart how it’s doing, what it’s feeling.

It can take patience. And comfortableness with sitting in silence. For my heart is shy most days, taking a bit of coaxing to come out, communicate what it is it wants to say.

I consider whether I am trying to coax it now, as I write these words to you. And I realize I’m not. Not really. Not in the same way that I attempt to coax my heart to speak to me when I write poems. Writing these words to you is different than me writing poetry. Here, I am trying to create an argument. Or follow some train of thought. I am trying to have some linearity to my thinking. 

But when I do the first draft of a poem, it is rare that I know, from the onset of writing, what it is I am trying to say. Rather than knowing, from the beginning, what point I am trying to express–and trying my best to use language to convey that point–I intentionally put myself in a position of discovery. I intentionally give my heart space to do and say what it wants. I don’t want to censor it. Or control it. I want only to be a helper, a listener, a scribe. I want my heart to know it is the boss of me, not the other way around.

Revision for the poems comes later. Changing structure. Switching words. Adjusting rhythm. Building word pictures that either screech or lumber or sing. But a second draft–and a third draft–only comes after a first draft. I can only revise what my heart has helped me understand, with clarity, what it wants to say.

So when I sit by the window, notebook in my lap, I consider what everyday moments have recently grabbed my attention. What mundane, ordinary moment of a day might be the content of a deeper story my heart wants to relate?

For instance, a ride under oak trees, the normal path I take on my bike a few days a week–a route that has become routine–stuns me with its beauty. My eyes see warm autumn light illuminating the path. My ears hear yellow leaves crunching under my tires. But my heart? It notices something else. Something bigger. Deeper. It sees beauty on a different level than I can see with my physical senses. And because of what my heart sees, my body reacts, without my mind understanding why. A wave of emotion comes over me: I grip the handlebars and gulp for breath.

My heart–Holy Spirit within me–sees and hears and feels something my physical body can’t. My heart experiences heaven and time expanding. Right here. Represented, in this moment, by these trees. By this light. By the arching of the boughs overhead. By the beauty aching everywhere. It’s overwhelming. Heaven breathing. How can I explain what it is my heart feels?

I have to try.

This week’s Loop Poetry Project prompt

For the Loop Poetry Project prompt this week, we are going to be present for a moment that would seem, on the surface, mundane, ordinary. But yet, in reality, that is what is far from true. We are going to see what breaks open beneath the surface of the common experiences we experience every day when we look for deeper meaning, a deeper story our heart can tell us, deeper than what our eyes can see.

Do this by staying in a moment; sitting expectantly with it. Revisiting it–if not temporally, then imaginatively. You might want to begin this experiment by looking more deeply into the meaning of the objects around you. A coffee pot you use every day, for instance: What does it represent for you? What does it remind you of? What does its shimmer or its dullness, its dents and fingerprinted surface, prompt you to think about? A person? A memory? A relationship? A wound you have tucked away long ago?

What about the envelope on the counter? Or the empty toothpaste tube in the bathroom? What about the blue jay hopping around your backyard? Or the school children across the street yelling and running from one end of the blacktop to the next? What about the leaves tumbling from the trees as the wind blows them to the ground? Or untied shoelaces? Or water pouring into the gutter from the street? What is something you see every day, all the time, but are now intent on seeing as if for the very first time? What memory does it trigger? What does it represent for you? How does it make you feel?

Here is a poem I wrote yesterday morning. Can you guess what I was looking at that prompted the poem?

Trust your heart now. It has much to show you. Let it guide you. It will show you a deeper way to see.

from this one true heart,

jennifer

P.S. I look forward to reading your poems as you share them here, in the comments, or on social media using the hashtag #looppoetryproject on Instagram and/or Facebook! And here is the link to join the Loop Poetry Project group, a private group on Facebook where hundreds of brave and beautiful women join me and receive encouragement from one another as they write poetry and pursue personal healing.

* photography by Abigail Camp

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.