dispersing & reflecting light through poetry

Posts tagged ‘Christian poetry’

Christmas Inspiration

I find inspiration in many places. My grandchildren and the things they say; people around me, their lives and deaths; nature; my own life, thoughts and feelings and circumstances; ideas and philosophies.

This past Sunday at Pointe North Community Church our pastor, Tim Dorn, spoke about “the Presence” as part of his Advent series The Gift. I must confess that my attention was briefly divided between the sermon and another poem that came upon me. (Sometimes I can remember the bits of inspiration for later; but I know I’ve lost a lot of lines to short term memory, so most times I try to write it down immediately. Such was this case.) But a single phrase stood out. Something I had not heard put quite that way before: “…the stable became the Holy of Holies.”

Now I have never viewed the birth of Christ as a sanitized event as depicted in most manger scenes. The earthiness of the first advent is something I have wanted to capture in a poem for some time. This short statement put it in a fresh light and gave me the inspiration needed to write the poem.

The Presence
“…the stable became the Holy of Holies…”
–Pastor Tim Dorn, 12/13/15

The bearer of the covenant appears
through the door of this urban shed,
imperfect in its dimensions,
from the dark veil of night.

Dirt and dung covers the floor
of this ungilded Holy of Holies;
beasts of burden and field mice
bed in its sanctuary.

Layers of dust and chaff shrouds
this open Ark of Testimony
cradling the true bread of life,
the living staff, and the law fulfilled.

Starlight scatters shadows
through the slatted roof
illuminating the glory of God
in the face of a blood-covered newborn.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

Finishing an Echo

I began to write this poem back in August or before. I managed to throw together a couple of blogs on it and somehow completed it a couple of weeks ago. And I’m just now posting the completed poem. Why is that?

For one, I’m not a full time poet. One does not pay the bills as a poet unless one has multiple degrees and teaches at a university or works in publishing. Therefore, I spend much of my time working to put food on the table, buying the food to put on the table, or helping to cook the food that’s put on the table, and then cleaning up the table.

Secondly, my writing routine has been completely disrupted by family issues. We have become the guardians of our nine year old grandson while his mother works on getting her life back together. The times of day that were previously set aside for writing are now broken up to take care of other things (we thought we were finished raising children, three girls all grown, and a precocious nine year old boy is an altogether different and non-stop challenge) or to rest from the whole lot (and resting is questionable).

Now, I did manage to write a couple of poems apart from this one: two elegies. One was for a close friend who passed quietly and unexpectedly, the other for a co-worker who died a week later after years of illness. (Perhaps I’ll share them in a later post.)

So that’s why I have been absent from The Prismatic Page. That’s the reason for the delay. When I did find time to focus (arriving at work an hour early, working on my phone), it came together quite nicely. I hope you enjoy it.

Heard Through the Echoes
(A Pantoum)

Can You hear, God?
Are your ears open to my prayers?
Am I whispering in the wind,
answering echo for echo?

Are your ears open? Do my prayers
reach the heights of heaven’s heart,
answering echo for echo
within the weight of silence?

Reach the heights of heaven’s heart;
hushed echoes overflowing
within the wait of silence:
know Me.

Hushed echoes overflowing…
I AM whispering in the wind,
“Know Me.”
Can you hear God?

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

Chasing the Echo

Continuing work on the pantoum. I worked out the two repeating lines for the first and last stanzas. I plan to keep this short–four stanzas–not quite adept enough for a longer pantoum.

Punctuation does not have to be the same for the repeating lines. This helps to give new meaning to the line. I’ve also slightly changed word order of line 3 and the word “to” in line 2 becomes “do”–still the same sound. Not sure how I want the last line to look.

I’m working down and then back up towards the middle. This is what I have so far:

line1 Can You hear, God?
line2 Are your ears open to my prayers?
line3 Am I whispering in the wind,
line4 answering echo for echo?

line2 Are your ears open? Do my prayers
line5 reach the heights of heaven’s heart
line4 answering echo for echo
line6 on bended limb?

line5 Reach the heights of heaven’s heart
line7
line6 on bended limb
line8

line7
line3 I Am whispered in the wind
line8
line1  Can you hear God?
        Can you hear? God.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

To Pantoum

I confiscated a line from a co-worker a few months ago. I don’t recall the conversation or if it was merely said in passing, but I took the line and told him I  would use it in a poem. He actually liked the idea that I would take something he said and use it in a creative way. So I jotted it down on an electronic note and promptly forgot about it.

And I do mean forgot the line totally.

Until the other day the same co-worker  asked if I had written the poem yet. Admittedly, I had not and I confessed that I couldn’t even remember what the line was, though I knew it was one of those really good, unforgettable lines. Fortunately, I keep scraps of thought and I had this one in a text for just such bits and pieces.

“I heard it through the echoes”

So having re-acquired the line and the renewed challenge to use it, my mind gnawed on it. What’s the theme? What did I hear? How do I present it?

OK. Echoes. Repetition. A pantoum. I’ve used the form once before. Here’s the format:

line1
line2
line3
line4

line2
line5
line4
line6

line5
line7
line6
line8

as many stanzas as needed

line7
line3
line8
line1

And that’s about as far as I am. More later.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

RED Comment/Critique

I recently received a comment from asherblake, Lion’s Roar Sparow’s Twitter regarding InspiRED Again:

“Awesome. First let me say it mostly reads very smooth, and kept me interested. It was fairly formal and had some old fashioned notes like the first line of the third stanza and the first line of the couplet but it was still lively. I have three suggestions for you. The first line and 2/5 are not so iambic are they? My scansion’s not so good, and I know there is flexibility with iambs, but I thought you might want to start with the third line, revise a bit, but keep the rhyme scheme. (Though I love calling [Charleston] the Holy City and the presence of a park bench.) When you go into the second stanza I had a lot of trouble telling the connection to the first stanza, especially since they share a sentence. I think the speaker may be taking Valentine as an instructor–as to avoid sexual immorality. The lack of context, especially grammatical, leaves this buried. (The transition into the return of Christ also has a buried theme, which is not always bad, but you might consider making the connections between the reading of the Song, Valentine, and the return of Christ, more open.) Thirdly, do you want to say “spliced”? It has kind of a negative connotation? Well, I hope that’s not too much.”

I really appreciate constructive criticism. This shows me the reader cared enough about me and/or the work to comment, to help better the work. I get some of that within the writing group I belong to (shout out to the Christian Writers Network at Cathedral of Praise, North Charleston). I don’t think I can stress how important these people have been to me, not only as a writer, but as a follower of Christ. As a writer you will eventually have someone critique your work, even if you are totally isolated in your writing: a literary agent, an editor/publisher, the reading public. A good writing group gives you a safe and encouraging environment to grow as a writer. Our group has writers of various levels who work in different genres–poetry, inspirational, devotions, sci-fi and novels, we even have a cartoonist/satirist in the group. All these work together to help each other become better writers.

This relates to followers of Christ. Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we shouldn’t refrain from getting together with other believers. I don’t think this just relates to “church”. We need to get together frequently to encourage and uplift one another; to help each other in our walk with the Lord. Sometimes this may entail “constructive criticism”. If there is something in our life that needs to be corrected, wouldn’t you rather have someone who loves you and is concerned with your well-being point it out to you, than to have the world judge you (and you know they will). To have a group of people in various levels of their walk, with different points of view, can help you become a better Christian.

I had not intended to go in this direction with this post (and I seem to be using Hebrews quite frequently), but there it is. I did look at Asher Blake’s critiques. I tweeked a few things he pointed out, left some alone because I liked the way I had it (for now). But I appreciated the input and I hope I have a better poem for it. Here’s the updated version:

Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ

In the Holy City with faith’s fresh start,
on a park bench—alone; with blushing shame
I read Wisdom’s Song sung from sickened heart,
plagued with fever of most vehement flame.

Love’s perfect bliss banned by dark rule’s claim
that young soldiers be more stout if not wed;
yet embraced by stouter priest whose sole aim,
the union of man and wife, cost his head.

This flowered crown’s among many behead
by those lacking, who deem to quench Christ’s fire;
unending flame whose strength shall raise the dead
complete and whole, clothed in holy attire.

And I, one crumb this bread, one drop this wine,
shall ever consummate the feast divine.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

InspiRED

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. –Thomas A. Edison

I sat down at my desk on Saturday (my morning outdoor projects were complete and I had the house all to myself) to work on “The Sonnet”. The poem that I have procrastinated, that has been a problem to write, that has plagued me. I pored over my notes about Solomon and The Song of Songs, quotes from those scriptures; the notes on Valentine, his resistance to Claudius, his beheading; the notes concerning the coming of Christ. I read through my lists of rhymes; I scoured them looking for connections. I drew lines at the top of a blank sheet to indicate iambic pentameter.  Back and forth between the three notebooks that contain a couple pages each of penciled notes and a file on Inkpad Notepad. How do I start? What words do I rhyme? Why am I doing this to myself?

And then I saw them. Two words. Two words that weren’t even on the same line. They were drawn to each other. The first just one blue line down and to the left of the second written in #2 pencil on legal pad yellow. “wisdom”. “song”. And the next word flowed out like it belonged. “sung”.

I HAVE THE START OF A LINE.

And then I notice a quote from The Song. “I am sick of love.” And the line almost finished itself.

“Wisdom’s song sung from sickened heart.”

But is it iamic pentameter? Close enough. Next line. What are some common elements of these three subjects? Fire? Plague? Losing one’s head? Where was that quote from Solomon?

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.

Song of Solomon 8:6

Okay. Flame, also connected with end-time scenarios. How do I connect them? Plagues are also a part of the final days. Somehow St. Valentine is a patron saint of plagues. And there’s the line from Solomon, “I am sick of love.” How do I…

And then the next line just seemed to materialize from the tip of the pencil lead.

“plagued with fever of most vehement flame”

But the end words “heart” and “flame” aren’t even in any of my lists of rhyming words. There’s a new challenge. But now I have a direction. Now I have two lines that I didn’t have before. My 1% of inspiration. Back to perspiring.

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

ORANGE Playlist

I don’t want to get too far along on ORANGE, I only have 5 poems completed for it. I honestly don’t know where I’m going with it. I have connected the titles to ideas and topics: fear, death, apostacy, community, the resurrection, and more. Culturally, orange is associated with autumn, harvest, fruitfulness. Orange is warm and happy. As a secondary color it’s transitional. Orange is a sensational color–slightly more intense than yellow, yet less aggressive than red–that stimulates activity and appetite, and encourages socialization. Orange elicits a stronger “love it” or “hate it” response than other colors.1

The Lord once told me concerning my poetry to make the connections and He would give the meaning. That isn’t to say that I don’t have an intended meaning to what I write. I’ve never quite understood writers that just write words on a page, only to say that they didn’t have meaning, expressed or implied; that the reader gives the interpretation. There had to be something on their mind or in their heart to put the words to page. With my poems I’m trying to make a connection, to have meaning; but God will give my poetry true meaning if my mind is stayed on Him (no matter how imperfect I may be–and I am extremely imperfect), and if I write to please HIm and to encourage, uplift, and enlighten others.

With that in mind, here is the current proposed playlist for ORANGE:

Orange
Jack O’Lantern
Terra Cotta Soldiers
The Scent of Autumn
Orange Crush
Lava Lamps
Orangemen
The Golden Gate Bridge
Black Box
Ghazal: La Naranja de Dios
Thursday in Thailand
Bell Edison Telephone Building, circa WWI
The Life of Oompa Loompas
Coals on the Altar
The Drink of Astronauts
Operation Ranchhand
Flight of Monarchs
Amber Alert
Orange Remix

Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey

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