Where have all the poets gone?

Market Square in Krakow, Poland

As I stood in the center of the market square of Old Krakow, Poland I was amazed by who was on display. A poet? The statue of Adam Mickiewicz, the greatest Polish Romantic poet of the 19th century, stood boldly and alone in the market square. On display in the center of most cities is a people’s most treasured heroes and collective triumphs. In Krakow, the former capital of Poland and home to Wawel, the historical castle and place of coronation for the Poland King’s, I would have anticipated war heros or kings enshrined in the market square. But there in the market square was a lone poet.

I was stunned.

In the City of Kings stands a poet.

As we consider leadership in the present day church what often comes to our minds first are the names or faces of its kings. The strategists, builders and architects. But maybe like Krakow, Poland, a city of kings, we should give voice and place to the poets.

What is a poet?

“Poets listen for stories, symbols, signs, and language beneath people’s words. In traditional culture this person was silent much of the time, listening to the talk of the people and, out of listening, giving voice to the unarticulated feelings of the people. Ancient poets would do this through music, story, art, writing, imagery. Their core skills were the ability to listen to the stories of the dominant, surrounding culture, understand the ways it enters, shapes, forms and interacts with community, and unfolds what is happening in these currents through the arts.” says, Alan Roxbourgh.

It was our most famous global moment as a nation. The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. For many it was during the opening ceremony that a nation’s identity and hopes were expressed in the words of a unknown, well spoken slam poet by the name of Shane Koyczan. Born in Yellowknife this young man galvanized a nation’s heart, feelings, historical hopes and present realities.

He stood alone on our stage and alone he called us to who we are as Canadians.

We felt it in our bones as he spoke. Only poets can do that.

The present day church is scrambling for life as it is being swallowed up in the growing cultural post-modern worldview. Leaders that are aware of their surroundings are disoriented and confused with how to lead in these times. Churches are either insulated in their own embrace, unaware of their marginalized voice, or they are aware and often paralyzed, staring into the abyss of uncertainty. This is the climate for poets to emerge. Poets make sense of the experiences churning inside of people. They coalesce the collective feelings of a people.

The church is churning on the inside.

Poets give voice and meaning to that collective agitation. They are not strategists or the ones who will bring the solutions. They give voice and they give language that fosters the dialogue of the current realities.

Where are the poets?

They are here… they are being forged out of the fires of uncertain times.


Vulnerability will be their robes and poignant notions their mark. Listen for them, watch for them, be one of them.

In a City of Kings look for the poets.

Todd Rutkowski

~ by blueporch on June 1, 2010.

3 Responses to “Where have all the poets gone?”

  1. I once went to an art gallery in Basel Switzerland and spent 3 hours walking through the gallery taking in the Picaso’s, Dali’s, and Rodin’s. Appropriately, I was speechless. I am not one with words and actually I get kind of tired of the people that feel it necessary to over intellectualize art critique. For me it simply comes down to whether or not I connect with it. Although the art in the gallery was the best this world has to offer, the scene that impacted me the most was a lone man sitting starring at one painting for the entire time that I toured the gallery. As I looked at “his” painting I tried to figure out what he saw in the painting? I guess I didn’t sit with it long enough . . . or maybe I didn’t identify with it. Really, it doesn’t matter, the fact is everyones experience and understanding is different, and we need to embrace the differences and learn from our misunderstanding. Surround yourself with images that you feel define you.
    Teenagers have a lot more understanding of their world than we give them credit for. A typical teenager will plaster their room with every poster and nicknack they run into; with no seeming rime or reason. Have you ever asked a teenager what their room means? If you get an answer it probably is not very wordy and might end with “because I like it”. Typically won’t get you a 4.0 grade point average. In some ways a teenagers expression is the healthiest way to define a world often out of control. Please do not be hard of hearing and short of seeing the impulsive teenage, the simple child, the marginalized bum, and the lone man stunned by one painting in the midst of countless masterpieces.
    Identify with the things that interest you. Sit with things for awhile . . . and then sit with them again.

  2. I saw that shpeel at the Olympics and this video gave me goose bumps. Shane Koyczan is the balls and is a rare breed. I’m not really into poetry at all but when you can pull something like this off, you’ve got a gift. I don’t think that there are too few poets, there are just a pile of lame ones.

    PS – the best poet I know is Bruce Wiebe. That guy knows what’s going on.

  3. To communicate in words or art those things that can touch what is under the surface of our everyday ordinary speech and thought patterns is always good. It gets our attention and starts our minds thinking of new possibilities.

    An artist once visited a school and went into the kindergarten classroom only to notice all the artwork around the room. He said “I see there are artists in your midst. Can all the artists put up there hand”. Every child in kindergarten immediately raised their hand. The artist also visited other classes at the school up to grade six. He made the same observation in each class and asked the same question. In the second grade nearly all the children put up their hand in response. The third grade, maybe half raised their hands. By the time he reached the sixth grade not a single child raised their hand to admit to being an artist. Rather, they looked around to see if there were any “weird” kids who would admit to such a fate.

    I heard Bono and The Edge from U2 talking on a TV programme a couple of nights ago. I was amazed to find out that they formed their band even before they knew anything about musicianship or even if they had any talent. They went about the business of being a band and made music that was quite different from anyone else. It didn’t really occur to them that there were rules to being a band or writing and performing music. They just had a desire and a passion to do something and went about doing it. The results speak for themselves. Listening to them was really inspiring.

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