Poetry and Prayer
By Graham Norman
Eleven years ago I learnt that poetry is a form of prayer, an intercession and invocation to God. I had spent the day in Fineshade Wood in Northamptonshire with a small group of devotees of the poet John Clare, walking, reading his poems and eventually coming in out of the rain to small barn meeting room where we spent a quiet hour, meditating and writing. I wrote this:
Blessed by Rain
Finding Words in the Forest, Little Barn, Fineshade Wood, 8th May 2010
Between two concentrated faces,
profiled, a candle lit to warm
the daylight of this barn,
shines a window, frosted with rain.
It offers a wall, a hedge, fir tops
and a sky that goes round the world
to reappear behind me, rewetted.
A third face bows, brings incense
to the table in her pen. It is holy
and we are writing the Book of Joy.
None of us were declared Christians at the time. Yet, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Christ was walking with us in the woods, speaking to us in the words of John Clare, and He was now conversing gently with our souls as we sat in silence. He was listening intently.
God speaks quietly, whispers more often than he shouts, and you have to pay attention and remember and wait before you respond. You wait for the words. They are always given as a surprise, sometimes hidden and discovered in unexpected places. You place them on your paper in an act of devotion and you write your prayer. You read it back to yourself and wonder, is this what I meant to say? And then you realise, it’s not what you want to say, it’s what God wants you to say. That’s the surprise.
That’s a poem. That’s a prayer. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it will be honest, real and true.