How to Be a Poem

Today I was thinking about spiritual formation and what came to mind was a poem by Wendell Berry, the Kentucky writer, farmer, and activist. The poem is called “How To Be a Poet.” But I think it could be re-titled “How To Be a Poem.” Here’s what I mean: the New Testament says we are “God’s workmanship.” The word used for “workmanship,” poiema, is the same word from which we get our word “poem.” Thus, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that we are “God’s poem.” So much of what Berry describes here is good advice not just for the poet but for anyone who wants to put themselves in the loving hands of the Master Craftsman.

Here is an excerpt :

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Here is the full text of the poem.
[Or, you can listen to or download an MP3 of Berry reading the poem from The Englewood Review of Books...]

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  • Gary Lynch

    Thanks for sharing.
    This coming year I am making a commitment to read less, use electronic media less, to speak less and to listen more and more intently. This coming year I will spend more time reading people and allowing people to read me, being Presence as compared to just being present. Being less of a poet and more of one a poem.

    Peace and blessings at Christmastime