Commentary

Poetry and other arts commentary

Poetry Collection

I am starting to organize the poems that are on this website.

I normally post my poems simply as blog posts, usually after spending some time editting them.

However, so are posted as fairly raw drafts.

Eventually, I go back, revise some of the poems, and place them into a structure related to other poems. It helps me think about how my poems interrelate. Hopefully, it will be helpful to you as well.

Some poems end up in a section at the bottom of uncategorized poems. These are often poems I haven't gone back to work on or to think about how they relate to other poems.

In particular, poems that I write during periods where I post a poem a day end up in this section.

There are links below to navigate through the different sections, subsections, and the poems within each subsection.

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Water and Presence

Note: This is an assignment for the English Spirituality and Mysticism course I'm currently taking:

I was very excited to read this week’s assignment to write a Celtic prayer. Poetry is an important part of how I express myself, and I’ve really enjoyed reading the Celtic Poems and Prayers. I misread the assignment and ended up writing two different prayer poems which I am sharing here. As part of the exercise, I’m including the poems for everyone to read.

Water

Blessed Father, pour us down upon the earth,
like the winter rains in times of darkness,
like the spring rains reawakening the fields,
like the summer rains nurturing the crops.

Blessed Jesus gather us together,
in small pools of community,
in streams of Peregrini,
in the mighty ocean bringing changes.

Blessed Spirit draw us back to you
like the dew rising up off of the fields
like the mists of the moors
like the blown spume of the ocean.

Some of the themes from Celtic Christianity I’m trying to incorporate: The importance of water. This poem uses water as a metaphor for our relationship with God. The Trinity. Following the example of other Celtic prayers, it is addressed to each member of the Trinity. Darkness. I only really touch on darkness in the first part of the poem, but the references to the ocean also meant to invoke thoughts about glas martyrs. Peregrini. I bring in the idea of being an exile for Christ, or the journey. Community. I also bring in references to community, which seems so important to me in Celtic Christianity.

Presence

Father, creator help me to see you
in everything you’ve created,
in the wolf of St Francis,
in straw of Brother Lawrence,
and in the mud puddle at my feet.

Jesus, savior remind me of how near
the kingdom of heaven has come
in the people around me
the ill,
the sinners,
and all of us caught up in our daily tasks.

Spirit, sustainer guide us on our journeys
wherever they are leading.

Like my first prayer poem, this one also focuses on members of the Trinity. Another key focus on this is panentheism and God being present in the creatures and other things created around us. I step away from Celtic Christianity a little by invoking Saint Francis and Brother Lawrence, but both of them seem to me to be part of the same approach to spirituality. I also bring in the aspect of the journey, without a clear destination which seems so important to me. I break with the first two stanzas which each have three examples of what I’m talking about in the stanza when I get to the final stanza. It helps communicate in an additional way, the uncertainty and incompleteness of the journey.

For me, writing is a very contemplative experience. I mostly compose poems in my mind, mulling them over and over before I put them on paper. Then, I spend time revising what I’ve written. So the practice of writing and sharing these prayer poems has a nice combination of contemplation and action.

Celtic Christianity as I’m understanding it right now, feels very comfortable and familiar to me, giving me words and constructs that match how I approach life, prayer, and writing.

Grant Ward Gets Touched by An Angel on Inauguration Day: A Meta-analysis of Gavin Stone

It is late Thursday evening, just over twelve hours until the forty-fifth President of the United States is sworn in. I am sitting in a movie complex in a shopping mall in New England with my fifteen year old daughter. I can’t remember what the last movie was that I saw in a movie theatre. Most of the great old art houses showing Kurasawa, Truffaut, Tarkovsky, and Wenders are gone. There is too much gratuitous violence and too little depth for me in most of the movies today.

Earlier this evening, I read a few of my poems at The Ghostlight Project event at a community television station studio, expressing hope that theatre, the arts, could remain a light, a beacon for diversity, in these troubled times.

I am in my late fifties, still trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring becoming an Episcopal priest. I believe it is what I am supposed to do, but the committee that accepts people into the ordination process don’t seem to think so.

My daughter is bright but struggles with her health. She is politically active and especially concerned for women’s rights and gay rights. She loves Brett Dalton and has been talking about this film since it was announced, and so here we are, at one of the first showings.

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone was exactly what I expected. It is formulaic, cliché-filled, predictable, and probably a really important film to see right about now. It is the sort of film that your aunt, who always tells you she is praying for you hopes you will go to. Her comments about praying for you has always made you feel a bit uncomfortable. God isn’t really something you talk about in the twenty-first century, but you know she is kind. She loves you and that she will sit through hours of binge watching Touched by an Angel, or Hallmark Holiday Specials with you as you eat ice cream and try to mend a broken heart.

Not only is the movie formulaic, cliché-filled, and predictable, but it seems like the backstory is as well; some Christian writers and producers getting together to make a movie, hoping to win a few converts to Christ. It hits all the right notes for the conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical crowd. A washed-up Hollywood elite coming to know God through having to do community service. A pastor who is kind, caring, and fixes the hot water heater in the church, not one of these celebrity preachers. The pastor’s daughter, who learns a little bit about grace and forgiveness herself after having been hurt by yet another person in the entertainment industry, and the hero’s reconciliation with the father, but his own father, as well as our Heavenly Father.

The cast is as diverse as nineteen-fifties middle America. There is a black person somewhere in the crowd, and perhaps some Asians or Latinos. If there is a gay person, they are so far in the closet you cannot see them. The references to sexuality are minimal. The stars don’t have sex. The only direct reference is recounting the scene of the woman caught in adultery.

Likewise, the only violence is in the re-enactment of the Crucifixion.

So why should you go see this movie now? Don’t go, to criticize it. Don’t take a friend to try and convert them. Don’t go for the narrative. Go for the meta-narrative, for the movie’s place in the twenty-first century. Take a friend who is seeking Christian Reconstructionism and another who is seeking Moral Revival. Take a friend who has been reading Foucault and Judith Butler.
Gavin Stone tells the folks at the church that a key to acting is listening. It is a message that we all need to listen to. The pastor’s daughter tells Gavin about the importance of humility. That is another message all of us, especially our newly elected leaders, need to listen to.

I am writing this on inauguration day. A lot of people are concerned about what is in store for America over the coming four years. I am actually feeling somewhat optimistic. Actors are speaking up at theatres. Women are marching. The rebellion against political correctness is now being seen for what it is, a lame excuse for self-centered rudeness.

Find someone different from yourself to listen to. You can start by going to see The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.

The Unexpected Rabbit

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Happy New Year. Recently, I asked my friends what they thought I should resolve for the New Year. I am facing great uncertainty this coming year, especially around my spiritual journey and our political climate. Will 2017 be a breakout year, in some unexpected way?

Kim, Fiona, and I have gotten tickets to go see Amelie when it opens on Broadway. So last night, we watched the movie. Will this be the year that I find an old tin box full of childhood keepsakes? Will it be the year that I set off to help others in my own quirky way? Will it be the year that I build up enough courage to let something truly wonderful happen to me?

I already have a wonderful marriage, a wonderful family, and a wonderful life (to bring in a different movie title), but is this the year that something gets added to that, in terms of life ambitions, the spiritual journey and the work (much more than my job), that I am to do?

I didn’t get a lot of responses to my blog post asking for suggestions, but one that did stick with me was a reference to #OneLittleWord. The starting point for me in thinking about #OneLittleWord is a blog post by Deanna Mascle whom I met through a community of connected learners. Last July, she wrote Write Your Future in #OneLittleWord.

What is my one little word? Perhaps, it stays with the blog post I wrote at the beginning of last year. Unexpected. 2016 certainly had some unexpected twists. It looks like more of the same may be in store for 2017.

Let’s hope for some unexpected joy this year as we, like Amelie, find the courage to let something truly wonderful unexpectedly happen to us this year.

Random Thoughts about my Christmas Reading List

Recently, I wrote about some books I got for Christmas, including Colin Cremin’s book Exploring Videogames with Deleuze and Guattari: Towards an Affective Theory of Form, Upstream by Mary Oliver, and Parker J. Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. They are all, perhaps, interconnected in unexpected ways. To illustrate this, here are some quotes from these books, woven together in to a fragment of a found poem. Can you tell which quotes are from which books?

“We have a strange conceit in our culture
that simply because we have said something,
we understand what it means”
“untidy approximations
of what they are about.”

“It is an invitation to take flight
that also extends to the reader,
to explore different worlds
and create new ones".

“Now I become myself”
“No, not a place: a becoming.
A becoming that exceeds image, analogy and metaphor.”
“Attention is the being of devotion.”
“The mind acts like a filter
to retrain only
sensations useful to it.”

“Sometimes the desire to be lost again,
as long ago,
comes over me
like a vapor”
“adaptive to the task of liberating desire –
desire being a generative force.”

As I’ve thought about this, I wrote another poetic fragment, this one is my own musings on what I’ve been reading, and isn’t “found”.

We are the characters in a cosmic video game.
We find our meaning
and purpose
in doing
what we were designed to do.

We live and move and have our being
seeking the Designer
not knowing the moves,
the rules,
or the way
and only finding them
by exploration
and experimentation.

One final thought for today. As I read about Deleuze, Guattari, and video games, I am struck by the discussions about realism. Many of the most complex video games are the highly realistic first person shooter games. Often, it seems, realism is something people aim for in video games. Yet other games, especially casual games, tend more towards abstraction without being visually compelling or complex. What might an abstract visually compelling complex video game be like? What might it be like as a multi-player game, an abstract community art video game?

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