The God in Poetry

Seamus HeaneyMy friend Betsy explained to me “I don’t believe in God, I’m a poet. I believe in poetry.”

And I thought, yes indeed!

A poet focuses like a laser on language as a conduit for emotion and history. My ample idea of faith encompasses the poet whose religion is poetry.

In the beginning was the word.

That’s John 1.1 (the first verse in the Gospel of John) from the King James version of the Bible. It continues,

and the word was with God, and the word was God.

So you see there’s some murkiness in the text about differentiation and communication, divinity and union with the divine, and my very favorite phrase I came across while researching this is from good ole wikipedia:

The proper rendering into English from the original Koine Greek text continues to be a source of vigorous debate among Bible translators.

I don’t read Greek, wish I did, but isn’t this pretty?

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεός ἦν ὁ Λόγος

In the beginning was the word (logos) and the word was with God, and the word was God.

Last night Betsy and I joined the clean and coiffed ladies, and the overflow crowds clamoring at the doors, at the Poetry Society of America’s astounding Seamus Heaney tribute.

Here are my favorite lines from the evening:

What do we say any more
to conjure the salt of our earth?
So much comes and is gone
that should be crystal and kept,
(from The Singer’s House)

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
(from Punishment)

How flimsy I felt climbing down the unrailed stairs,
(from The Master)

The end of art is peace
(from The Harvest Bow)

When one man casts, the other gathers, then vice versa, without changing sides
(from Casting and Gathering)

And I also loved the anecdote that Heaney said his poem Bogland had the rhythm of getting dressed. That it came to him while he was getting dressed, and has something to do with the unimpeded passage of a leg into a pair of trousers.

And here is a poem of Seamus’ that went unread last night, in his own words. So full of life and love and the word and God.

The Underground.

Leave a Reply