That the “poetic imagination” can capture a knowledge and truth in its own right has often been noted throughout the ages. In ancient Greece, Plato stated that “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” Christian poets too have honored poetry as an essential and powerful way to know reality. Poetry captures the images, context, hungers, desires, questions, passions, and feelings of our lived experience and transforms them through imagistic language — to reveal the transcendent lurking beyond our immediate sensory experience. In an interview with NPR, poet and theologian Nate Klug explains that “poetry, whether or not it’s explicitly religious, is one of the best modes that theology, or talking about God, can take. … Poetry is a form where the language is under so much pressure, and that can really bring about these wonderful surprises and insights in our ways of talking about God or thinking about our faith.” (Listen to the 3-minute interview here.)
In Transpositions’ Poetry Symposium, three writers will explore the link between poetry and Christian theology:
Monday, 9 September: “Trinity Sunday – A Sonnet by Malcolm Guite” – In his post, Malcolm Guite presents one of his own works, “Trinity Sunday,” to explore the ways in which poetry can present some of the mysteries of the Christian faith and attempt “to represent the unrepresentable.”
Wednesday, 11 September: “Reversals: Gerard Manley Hopkins’ ‘The Starlight Night'” – In her post, Holly Ordway demonstrates how poetry can challenge our implicit assumptions about the universe. In a close examination of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “The Starlight Night,” Ordway demonstrates how Hopkins changes the reader’s perspective by providing another way to look at the ordering of the cosmos.
Friday, 13 September: “The California Condors – A Poem by Timothy E.G. Bartel” – Finally, Timothy E.G. Bartel (of the Institute for Theology, Imagination & the Arts) discusses how poetry makes demands upon us; for in order to express ourselves in verse, we need to know our theology in a profound way. In his own poem entitled “The California Condors,” Bartel shows the value in knowing past theological poets in order to express ourselves more fully.
We hope you can join us, and feel free to share your favourite theological poetry!