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Issue 23


Randomness # 23

We are having an addition to this thoughtletter. Springing from an idea one of the Random Recipients had, once a month, in addition to my thoughts, we will have a poem at the end. I like poetry, and have dabbled in it. The new section, entitled "Random Poems" will not feature me, though. It will feature some of my favourite poets (which may include you guys if you so wish). And I felt that the preface I wrote for a personal poetry anthology would be apt. Here it is:

Poetry fascinates me. It is like no other art form on earth. Music may be able to take one to higher and lower points of emotion; visual art may be able to stun someone beyond belief; essays may be able to make people believe; dance may be able to make all around rejoice; but poetrypoetry can do it all. It may not take as much of the brains concentration to read a poem than to play the clarinet or listen to Beethovens "Eroica" symphony, but it can do other things. I consider music to be the highest form of art and one the greatest expressions mankind has to offer. But poetry ranks near music, its limitations coming perhaps by its very nature, for language has such horrible, binding limits. I have just undergone one of the most intensive, rigorous studies of poetry ever. And I have learned from it. Oh yes, it truly was a learning experience. After analysing poems, writing essays, doing presentations, and watching and listening to other peoples presentations, I have most certainly learned about poetry. Three things I have learned about this masterful art-form are that it can aid one in self-exploration, be used as a one of the deepest forms of worship, and it is more timeless than I'd thought.

I am a human. I experience emotion; I think; I learn; I grow; I change; I have a soul. I am reflected in all I do. Poetry is a reflection of one persons mind, soul, heart. In examining others, we can come closer to ourselves. In seeing what one thinks, we can compare that with what we think. Perhaps we have never even thought of something before, but a poet addresses it. Then will we think on it. And we will learn more of ourselves from it, undoubtedly. It is true that anything that one does, does simply that, but there is more to poetry than a simple reflection. A simple reflection is like a mirror. But a perfect reflection would be like a hologram from science fiction fantasies. If a poet is skilled at his craft and if he labours hard enough, a poem becomes more like a holographic projection of his self than a mirrored reflection. Each word is chosen with care. Each idea is presented carefully. Diction is paid careful attention to. My English teacher says that its hard to change poems because they are so much like you. Shes right. Poems often reflect the emotions, the mind, the thoughts, the life of the poet at a single instant in time. And this is how they can aid in self-exploration. As far as the self-exploration of the poet is concerned, it is obvious how he is aided. The moment one puts a thought to paper, the pen letting loose a flare of ink, a scratch, a scribbling of thought, an idea has sprung either from the mind or has been created by the mind. I have noticed that often, while writing, I formulate ideas in the act of composition. And writing helps create a more perfect form of an abstract idea. It puts the idea in terms that people can understand more easily. And so, the thought comes and then the words are examined, and chosen amazingly carefully and skilfully. The poem transitions from illegibility to the epitome of readability and coherencesometimes. Perhaps poets leave themselves a little vague a lot of the time. But the incomprehensibility is sometimes the thing that makes the poet learn about himself. And then the reader gets his hands on the work of hours, months or years. And he reads it. And he ponders it. A great poem will not necessarily be clear the first time through. Nor will it be necessarily completely grasped, every poetic device and nuance discovered. Sometimes it takes the world (the poet included) years to see every nuance of a poem. Some poems will spend Eternity being analysed and laboured over. I have read many poems over the past while, some found by accident, others remembered and searched out specifically. They have, for the most part, presented to me the glory of God and the foolishness of Man. Sometimes I see how greatly I differ from some poets. Other times I see how similar I am in my questions or ideas. I see how little I know or understand. I see how silly I am and how silly we all are and sometimes laugh at our folly. Other times I break down and pray. And I pray about everything, and usually end up worshipping God in His perfect holiness. Poetry has helped me rediscover my God, relight my faith, and propel me into a form and level of worship I had never thought of seriously before.

In Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance, Donald Miller says:
Poetry is my praise. I do not prefer song to verse. Song . . . is something beautiful. But it is easy. And I feel that I am getting more from it than God is . . . That isnt all bad. Perhaps God intended worship to give pleasure to the worshiper and worshipee alike. Poetry is long-suffering praise. It is work. Michelangelo and Rembrandt worked diligently at their worship. They painted scenes and labored endless hours in thought and strain. A poem, like a painting, can take a week or a month or a year to complete. When I finish, I can give it to God and it feels more substantial than singing a catchy tune with an organ backdrop . . . I think that long-suffering worship is more beneficial. (67)
I agree with Miller. I have found poetry to be one of the ultimate forms of worship. It is not so just for the poet, but for the reader as well. "The Color Green" is a magnificent poem in which the poet moves from hearing the rocks crying out to God to crying out with the rocks. I studied that poem in my intensive work. "The Destruction of Sennacherib", a poem presented by another student, reminded me of a passage in Isaiah. I read the passage and it caused me to metaphorically fall on my knees in class and worship God. It showed so much power, and it would not have been displayed to me were it not for the poem. Poetry has instigated, not just been, worship. I have written poems, and I try to do it for the right reasons. Writing a poem isnt just to be done for a mark on the report card. It should be done because the poet has something meaningful to say or has an idea to examine. Marks should be a mere side-result. And, for me, poetry is more than that. A well-quoted verse from I Corinthians says, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." So, even if I write a poem about walking to the grocery store, in my mind I can use it to praise God. Perhaps the end result will not cause millions to be saved. But it will have benefited me in my spiritual walk and made me draw nearer to God. But to write a truly great poem, the poet has to choose either something completely mundane or something truly important to him. The greatest poems use the mundane, everyday, simple things to convey something important, as in Wordsworths "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud . . ." a poem that is about daffodils, but strikes me as being about simplicity as well. The most important thing in my life is God. If God is the most important thing in my life, then if I am to attempt to write great poetry, or at least moderately decent poetry, it must be about God. And I write poetry about God, it will cause me to see Him more and worship Him more. Therefore, poetry is a deep form of worship, and has shown me how hard life can be as well as how beautiful life is. And if it is encased in worship, then it will become timeless and remembered forever.

One of the most important things to any man is his faith. If he has faith in Jesus Christus, Buddha, science, or Satan, it is important to him. Before I began this study of poetry, I knew that many poems are timeless. The most timeless poems are the Psalms. There are few poems in the Western World as old as the Psalms. And there are no ancient poems in the Western World as widely read as the Psalms. So, I saw, though did not recognise, that the most timeless poems are ones written by man expressing his faith. Now I recognise that in full. I see that if man is involved in worship, his words will live far longer than he or his memory. A case of poetry lasting longer than memory is found in Proverbs. Who knows who Agur is besides theologians and Biblical scholars? The man may have written a chapter full of proverbs, but his name is unknown to most people. His name was unknown to me until I read about him in an article by Rich Mullins about names and how Agur probably hated his. But Agur, though long-forgotten, lives on in his words. His proverbs are timeless. He says, "There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a maiden." (Proverbs 30:18-19). His name may have been forgotten, but his words live on in the most widely-read book in our culture. When we look at poems, we see easily how timeless they are. My course prompted me to buy a copy of the Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf. Beowulf is as timeless as English history itself. The old ways survive, but are understandable in todays culture. The themes are those of today, though they are occurring back then. The whole style is something that can reach out across the millennia and grab the reader. It is a magnificent poem, and a study of it and its can reveal much of the way Saxons and Danes lived. We will learn more about our past because of Beowulf. A timeless poem has caused man to reach back and examine his past and see that it is worth examining. Timelessness is revealed even in modern poetry. I read the magnificent poem, "Belial" by Kevin Max Smith. The poem is only a few years old. But it is on a timeless them, and presented in a timeless way. That poem shone into my dark, cold heart, and will shine into the world for years to come. Poetry is timeless, be it a year or a millennium old.

I have benefited from my rigorous and intensive study of poetry. I have learned about myself. I have learned about my God. I have learned about my people. I have learned about the extension of thoughts through time. I have learned all of this as a result of learning about poetry. I have learned that poetry helps self-exploration, edifies and creates worship, and is extremely timeless. No one can say that there is anything wrong with that. In fact, Id hope everyone would concur that it is, indeed, a meet and right thing to be.

-MJJ Hoskin, 1917 words

Random Poems

The Destruction of Sennacherib

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like the stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turt,
And cold as the spray of hte rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in the wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

-George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Copyright 2001, Matthew Hoskin