Oh no, I’ve said too much – I haven’t said enough -Pt 1

I read Todd’s post “Where have all the poets gone?” a couple weeks back. The following thoughts came out of my pondering. My wife Sara and I are friends of Todd. We are planting a missional community in Vancouver called “Something more”.

This subject of the absence of poetry pushes a button for me because it represents so much of what is essential, but often lacking in our lives as Canadians. My favorite teachers were poets – Mike Villeneuve at McNair Sr. Secondary, Jon Furberg at Langara/Vancouver Community College, and Eugene Peterson at Regent College, but also the prophetic people along the way, like Elbert Paul.

But their most powerful words were rarely written down.

It seems the medium of written poetry has been lost, or at least the public poetic voice has shifted away from print and common speech. Books of poetry are rare because they don’t sell. In an age of information, it makes sense that prose dominates our communication, almost to the point of a loss of meaningful metaphor, where we are left with over-used clichés. Prose has become the dominant language of Modernity, precise and unambiguous, but lacking an appreciation for mystery; crystal clear but often as lifeless as a lake deadened by acid rain.

If under-fifty Canadians want to hear poetry we buy a Tragically Hip CD.

We hit play hoping to hear what life is really about, or at least what it feels like from the inside out – our hearts are touched by songs and films (even commercials). Our growing appreciation for narrative is great, and I’m sure the book industry is relieved, but this doesn’t fill the space of poetry. Reality TV, trying to make our humanity entertaining, often only makes us feel better about ourselves in contrast to people with “real problems”. I’m not sure if we can learn significant life lessons through watching Jerry Springer. This is very different from contemplating and meditating on a parable or life metaphor, which is designed to get past our defense mechanisms to the core or heart of who we are or want to become

I’ve often wondered why I see such little emotional responsiveness in news reporters or from the anchors desk when announcing a heart-breaking story. Of course all languages are limited – you can’t say “I love you” in mathematics. Similarly, prose has limits as a literary form. Or is what we notice to be absent in our mass media, a more fully human element, a manifestation of something else?

If tearing up or angered outrage at injustice is unprofessional for a news reporter, what does mature Humanity look like on TV?

Where has poetry gone?

I believe poetry has diminished because we are willing to hide or ignore something vital about being human that poetry press on to engage with. A type of self-protecting sabotage has allowed a dissonance between mind and heart that has had terrible consequences, not just the absence of word-smiths calling us to gaze carefully at ourselves in a mirror. Our valuing emotional detachment, instead of authenticity and self-sacrifice as a sign of strength and maturity, has birthed generations of relationally challenged people, who are experiencing the breakdown of both family and marriage.

Curtis Collins
Something more Vancouver

Curtis & Sara Collins

~ by blueporch on June 15, 2010.

4 Responses to “Oh no, I’ve said too much – I haven’t said enough -Pt 1”

  1. I knew Curtis & Sara from when we lived in Langley 8 years ago. They joined us in our evening community at North Langley. Curtis & Sara and their young family of 3 children moved into Vancouver in October 2009 to begin a journey of living life in the neighborhood and seeing what kind of missional community emerges from it….Kind of exciting, kind of scary…

    Great thoughts on the absence of poets today…. anyone tell you that you were a good writer Curtis…


    • Thanks Todd. I really liked what you wrote on our need for poets. It fired me up. But everything I wrote about I’ve probably heard or read others say, especially Eugene Peterson – though I may have misrepresented him. I think by the time you hit 40, or have three kids, which ever comes first, you forget where and from whom you heard something – but somehow it gets stuck in your brain. I wish I could quote accurately the people who have helped me form ideas and shape my convictions, but instead, all I can do is paraphase them and take the credit. Now that’s gotta be a sin.


  2. “To address the issue of truth greatly reduced requires us to be poets who speak against the prose world. The terms of that phrase are readily misunderstood. By prose I refer to a world that is organized in simple formulae, so that even pastoral prayers and love letters sound like memos. By poetry, I do not mean rhyme, rhythm or meter, but language that moves like Bob Gibson’s fast ball, that jumps at the right moment, that breaks open old worlds with surprise, abrasion and pace. Poetic speech is the only proclamation worth doing in a situation of reductionism. The only proclamation .. that is worthy of the name preaching is not moral instruction, or problem solving, or doctrinal clarification. It is not good advice, nor is it romantic caressing, not is it a soothing good humor… It is rather the ready, steady, surprising proposal that the real world in which God invites us to live is not the one made available by the rulers of this age. The preacher has an awesome opportunity to offer an evangelical world: an existence shaped by the news of the gospel. This offer requires special care for words, because the baptized community awaits speech in order to be a faithful people.” Walter Brueggemann

    • Since the term poetry or the vocation of the poet can be vague for many of us today, having someone like Brueggemann give definition is so helpful. The same need goes for the word prophet: “Every totalitarian regime is frightened of the arts. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and purposing alternative futures to the single one the king (or perhaps our Church denomination) wants to urge as the only thinkable one” (bracketted words are mine). Interesting to think that God is often behind the subversion of the status quo – the prophetic Instigator of the missional church movement. Relentlessly through the ages He keeps sending prophets to stir up and redirect the hearts of all, including His people.

      How we now need God’s Spirit moving through His prophets, when we Evangelicals thrill more to the word prosperity than both prophesy or poerty.

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