Time for Poetry

By Buchanan, John M. | The Christian Century, August 24, 2010 | Go to article overview

Time for Poetry


Buchanan, John M., The Christian Century


WHEN I AM BLESSED with a little more leisure time than usual, I like to spend some of it with poetry. This summer I am thoroughly enjoying God Particles, by Thomas Lux, who teaches poetry at the Georgia Institute of Technology. From the title poem: "God explodes, supernovas, and down upon the whole planet / a tender rain of Him falls / on every cow, ladle, leaf, human, ax handle, swing set.... I think ... He wanted each of us ... to have a tiny piece of Him."

I have also loved every poem in Leavings, by Wendell Berry. For a time I found myself alternating between reading Berry and reading Walter Brueggemann's Journey to the Common Good. A curious thing happened: in my mind, Berry and Brueggemann began to collaborate. I imagined them engaged in a long conversation on Berry's porch.

One of Brueggemann's consistent themes is the theological importance of poets and poetry. In his chapter "The Continuing Subversion of Alternative Possibility," he suggests that there is a "contest of narratives going on in our society." The same contest was evident to the prophets of Israel during the Solomonic empire. "The prophets were not great liberals," Brueggemann says. "They were, rather, poets outside the box, rooted in Sinai."

Berry's poem reads like a commentary on Brueggemann's point: "The nation is a boat . …

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