Pastors and Poets

I'm no poet (though I have written a poetry collection everyone should buy and read and recommend to friends and family). And at worst I'm a disaster as a pastor, at best merely a desperate one. But I think nonetheless that there is an intersection--an overlap--between the poet's craft and the pastor's calling (as M. Craig Barnes so ably demonstrates in his book, The Pastor as Minor Poet).

Both pastor and poet must listen more than they speak. Both must observe carefully, think clearly, and communicate wisely. And both must be content to labor long and hard in obscurity and poverty.

For those and other reasons, I recommend that pastors cultivate relationships (at least through reading) with poets. Reading poetry can benefit a pastor in a multitude of ways. It can teach him or her to think better. To ponder. To write well. To SLOW DOWN. And much more.

To those ends, then, let me recommend some of my favorite poets, and offer a single line from each that I hope will whet the appetite:

1. William Shakespeare
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player..."

2. Robert Frost
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..."

3. Emily Dickinson
"Each life converges to some centre/Expressed or still..."

4. Wendell Berry
"Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear and no foretelling..."

5. Mary Oliver
"I thought the earth remembered me..."

6. Robinson Jeffers
"The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those/That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant..."

7. Christina Rossetti
"Then He shall say, 'Arise, My love,/My fair one, come away.'"

8. Albert Orsborn
"I know Thee as Thou art/And what Thy healing name..."

9. Edgar Lee Masters
"Out of me unworthy and unknown /The vibrations of deathless music..."

10. Richard Wilbur
"I can’t forget/How she stood at the top of that long marble stair/Amazed..."

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