Poetry’s Deep Work

“Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.”
– Jane Hirshfield, “Tree”

I remember exactly where I was when I encountered poetry for the first time. I was reading for my British literature class and had hunkered down in my dorm’s hallway so I wouldn’t wake my roommate. The poem was one by William Wordsworth. In it, the narrator returns to a place he loves and has dreamt of for five years. As he looks around, he takes in the majesty of the streams and cliffs, and he recognizes in them “a motion and a spirit, that impels / all thinking things, all objects of all thought, / and rolls through all things.”

Wordsworth may not have intended to speak about God here, but his words made me think of my own experience with the divine. As I read these lines, the poem simultaneously accomplished two things: it altered my perspective, and it gave voice to what I already felt to be true. After all, I was accustomed to calling God “Father” or “Lord,” not the spirit that “rolls through all things.” And yet, somehow, this language made sense to me, like I had known God this way all along, I just hadn’t known how to say it.

Read the rest over at Nations Media.

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