Culture / International Affairs / Lifestyle / Music Therapy

Holy Moly! World Poetry Day

Today, I am discussing three very essential things in my life at the moment- poetry, spiritual connection, and music.

For starters, March 21st is “World Poetry Day” as declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999.

According to their website, “UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind. One of the main objectives of the Day is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.”

Many blogs, websites, and news sources have put together compilations of famous poets and poetry as well as some that specifically profile modern day female poets. Some establishments in Ireland are taking the holiday to heart, even offering coffee and beer in exchange for poems!

If you’ve been following this blog or my radio show, you know that I recently had the pleasure of being able to showcase the work of some local poets as well as to discuss one of my favorite brilliant and gifted poets, Emily Dickinson.

During the past few months since that show, both my creative and spiritual spark has been reignited through poetry, my faith, and meditation around it. A couple months ago, I was alerted to great interviews on Lightbox Poetry with modern day poets, Jericho Brown and Malachi Black. Both artists have strong sentiments around the connection between prayer and poetry. Jericho Brown says, “The work of prayer and the work of poetry are the same in that they both ask us to broaden our awareness, to become more conscious of that which we’ve avoided or ignored.” Malachi Black calls attention to similar feelings, “Poems and prayers both endeavor…to celebrate, investigate, mourn, or heal the mystery of existence.”

Complementing my personal expression through poetry, I have begun to formally re-engage with my Catholic faith through participation in a local parish. The act of communal prayer has strengthened my ability to translate that energy into my daily spiritual practice and creative work. Yesterday marked the beginning of Holy Week, a week that is devoted to recall and immerse oneself in the events surrounding the suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is a sacred and intimate time for Christians to reflect on their faith and its application in their daily lives. Pope Francis, who is trying to increasingly keep up with the times, reflected this notion by joining Instagram (he already has a Twitter account with more than 26 million followers)! The justification of the account, which garnered more than 1 million followers in just 12 hours, is that photographs on Instagram may “help recount the Papacy through images.” Perhaps the Pope also sees the importance of creativity within prayer and his messaging, bringing a modern day visual art form into the mix.

Furthermore, the Pope’s message at the Palm Sunday service continues to reflect his mission to focus on the poor and the marginalized by calling for justice and dignity to be upheld for refugees. He stated, “Even as every form of justice is denied to him, Jesus also experiences, in his own flesh, indifference,” the pope said. “Since no one wishes to take responsibility for his fate, I am thinking of so many other people, so many marginalized people, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees.”

There are hopes that his focus on justice and attention to the marginalized and oppressed will continue more deeply in this Year of Mercy to women in particular. With so many amazing women and groups beginning and continuing to engage in productive and enlightened discussion around the issue of gender dynamics within the church, I am both heartened and realistically optimistic.

Speaking of other expressive ways to connect, we come to music. In particular, I have been reflecting on the lyrical poetry and instrumental arrangements of some modern day artists that take all shapes, forms, and meaning. From Sufjan Stevens’ subtle Christianity to Ani DiFranco’s feminist manifestos to Kendrick Lamar’s statements on race- all of which are both intensely personal yet relatable.

Here, I share two derivations of poetry that serve to both contrast and reinforce the ideas within each piece of work. The first is a poem that I wrote, which feels particularly fitting for the Lenten season, and the other is a hip-hop/rap song off the new album by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (Yes you read that right. In fact, this isn’t the first time that I’ve referenced them here.)

While the packaging in each instance is very different, the connection between the two is overall very simple- struggle, oppression, fear, engagement with a higher power, and the ultimate goal of freedom and an end to pain. Ultimately, these are universal feelings and themes that are often articulated throughout songs, poetry, paintings, and other writings in various ways.

Calling upon lines from another original poem of mine, “A story is told, sprung out from a familiar mold. Don’t let the fanfare distract you, from the simplicity of their existence.”

 

The Trek (Original Poem)

Heavy like a brick
weighing on my chest

Pressing, pushing
gnawing with memories

of what is too far to remember
yet too close to forget

Chained in misery and indecision
“Strike me down.”- I plead

“Let go. Come to me.”- She sings sweetly
“Hold on. Come for me.”- He wagers wryly

In an instant, submerged into murky waters
Covered in sludge upon rising

Step up. Back down.
Fall away. Trudge Forward.

Moving slowly
deep imprints in the mind.

The trek is paced with the weight
of grit and wet sand.

“Extinguish me.”- He screams
“Purify me.”- She cries

Soothing drops on my head
The rain falls gently in its sweet reprieve.

 

St. Ides, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

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