Finally comes the Poet

Scott Cadman

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With all the Qantas furore of late I was reminded of a poem I read many years ago by Keith St. Cartmail.

Christ did not fly Qantas to Sydney.

Fly Pan Am to LA

Flick cigar ash on the carpet

At the Wentworth

Have women in the room

Or watch the latest garbage on the Box.

Christ knows he’s not a hedonist

Although I saw him in Kings Cross

Downstairs in the pool room

Hobnobbing with the driftwood in the bar

Until the early hours

Whilst I love poetry I realise it may not be your thing. It is never quite in vogue or to be found on the best sellers list, but I would suggest essential nonetheless. 

One of the reasons why poetry is not always popular or appreciated is that it requires us to slow down. We must sit with poetry. Often one reading isn’t enough. Poetry forces us to slow down and ponder the world around us more deeply.

As Walter Brueggemann says, “Poetry is bottomless in its significance. It cannot be exhausted at first hearing or confidently decoded at first glance. It is a gift that keeps on giving. Poetry is elusive. From it different listeners will receive different things, none of which can prevail, dominate, or grant certitude. Poetry appeals to the concrete everyday realities of ordinary life but allows the listener to imagine worlds other than the one immediately in front of them.”

Poetry at its best subverts certainty and the desire that there is only one way of doing things, one way of seeing things, and one way of believing things. It helps us to imagine a different way of living than the one the world imposes on us. In our context one which has Christ’s life at its centre.

Poetry is also an invitation to live with and live in the extremities of life. Poetry at its finest and most profound emerges in the extremities of life and in circumstances which challenge the reductionism, speed, and need for certainty which governs so much of how the world works.

If poetry isn’t your thing, remember at least a third of the Bible is poetry: praise, love, psalms, prophetic utterances. If nothing else, why not be brave and at least give reading them a go.

My hope is in listening to these poets (and hopefully others) we might reclaim the missional witness of the church. A light to the nations. A voice in the wilderness. A hope that creates new life in the midst of uncertainty and despair. Where justice will roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

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