The Grove – Poetry

I’ve always been infatuated with words, both in writing and reading.  Somewhere stacked in storage boxes are a zillion pages of my childhood journals.  And my parents, clever people, they would discipline me as a kid by taking my books away.  I thought I would die.

But somehow, poetry was never really part of this love affair with words.  I am not sure what exactly possessed me to launch Velvet Ashes’ very first day with some of my own poetry/prose (See, I don’t even know what to call it!).   I still can’t believe I did that.  Because poetry is not a form of expression that I have any comfort or confidence in doing.  And honestly, it’s also not a form of writing that I’ve sought to read very often either.

In the last few years, though, something has happened.

I have a budding new love for poetry.

I can point to three reasons for this:

1.  Writers I love and respect have shared how poetry has moved and shaped their lives.

2.  I’ve sought to expose my children to poetry, and in doing so have exposed myself to its beauty as well.

3.   YOU.  You, poets, here in this space, at our our dear Grove,  you’ve been showing up and offering your gift of poetry to us.  I read line by line through your words, pausing to savor and taste.  And week after week, I think: goodness gracious, that’s gorgeous!  So simply profound.  So thank you for that.

Yet in my budding new love I feel far from capable of inspiring you all towards acts of poetry.  So I’ve invited my friend, Melanie Carey here today.  Melanie is herself a woman serving overseas.  For seventeen years she’s been living in Asia where she serves other overseas workers.

Melanie CareyShe started writing poetry in response to a prayer (many years ago) that God would give her something creative to do with a mind that spent too much time worrying.  He answered that prayer on an Easter morning when she woke up with lines and phrases of a poem floating around in her head and was filled with joy at what the resurrection meant.

In her journey with poetry she’s had the opportunity to help others like us learn how to pick up the poetry pen.  So today she’s here to offer a bit of instruction and inspiration.  And alongside you, I’ll stretch into new feats of beauty and bravery by linking up on my own blog with my humble attempt at poetry too.

Here she is, the lovely Melanie Carey…

Poetry. Probably you are already experiencing some emotion just at the mention of the word. Maybe it’s fear – I don’t know how to write it; or confusion – what’s it all about anyway?  Well, I’d like to suggest that poetry can be another way of getting creative and expressing what’s on your heart and yes, it can be fun and enjoyable, whatever your level of experience or perceived ability.  I’ve often been surprised to find that a poem I have written reveals something that I wasn’t even aware of about myself.  Many of my poems have also emerged as prayers, a deeper expression of my heart to God.

So how do we get started?  I’d suggest by reading Psalm 23 and using that as a basis for inspiration.

Just reading the Psalm may fill you with ideas and if that’s the case, then go for it!  Don’t worry about rhyming or keeping to a strict form, let your ideas flow.  After all, this is an exercise in being creative.

If you’d like a little more structure, then why not try one of these 2 ideas:-

  1. Try rewriting Psalm 23 using a different metaphor.  Replace shepherd with healer, teacher, companion, or any other role you think fits.  Think about how that new metaphor would alter the ideas contained in the remaining verses.  So for example, what “tools” would replace the “rod and staff” and how would they be used?
  2. Take a word that stands out to you from the Psalm (perhaps “shepherd” or “still waters” and write an acrostic poem where each letter of the word starts a new line of the poem. Each line could be a word or phrase which develops the idea suggested by the word.

Here’s an acrostic example:

Worship

We come as

One,

Rejoicing in our

Saviour,

Hearts lifted up

In

Praise.

 

Here are a few examples of poems based on Psalm 23  to give you some ideas:

Enough

Yesterday, he was my shepherd.

Tomorrow, he will be my shepherd,

But today, right now

In this moment

And moment by moment,

I have everything I need,

Because the Lord is

And he is my shepherd.

 

Shepherding

Sometimes you lead me to rich, verdant grass

by cool, clear waters – and I am refreshed.

Sometimes you lead me through rough, wind-swept crags,

where every step is hard – and I am stretched.

Sometimes you lead me through enemy lands,

where dangers lurk unseen – and I am kept.

Sometimes I drop my gaze and start to wander,

until you search me out – and I am rescued.

 

But sometimes, you take out your sharpened shears

and holding me firmly, you strip away

my shaggy fleece of pride: the growth of years,

with burrs and thorns that wound day after day.

You soothe my sores with balm, gentle as rain,

then smile at me and I am new again.

 

So how do you feel now? Ready to get started? Enjoy yourself and don’t be afraid to share what you come up with!  It might be just what someone else needs to hear.

Here’s how to share your poetry (or your thoughts on poetry) with us here at The Grove.  It can be based on Psalm 23 or something completely different.

  • If you don’t have a blog, share your poetry with us in the comments.
  • If you write a comment, please avoid copying and pasting your poem from Word as this will publish a lot of junk computer code.  It’s best to type it directly into the comment box.
  • If you have a blog, write your poetry in your own blog post.
  • Be sure to add the Velvet Ashes link (http://velvetashes.com/the-grove-poetry) to your blog post.
  • Please select the permalink from your post (so not your blog’s url,www.daniellenotyetthere.blogspot.com but your post url:http://www.daniellenotyetthere.blogspot.com/2013/11/todays-day.html)
  • Click on the blue “Add your link” box below to add your blog post to this page.
  • It will walk you through selecting which image you want to show up in the linky.
  • Then your picture and link will show up below!
  • Then be sure to go visit other’s sites and share some comment love! It’s the rule. We applaud brave hearts!

Visit the blogs above to see what people have shared for our prompt.

43 Comments

  1. Jennifer February 27, 2014

    I was just sitting here a short time ago choosing to take the risk of writing something to share today in this special place that we have here, although I do not often try to write poetry. I still do not think I really write it, sometimes like today it just happens. When this week’s Grove initial post came through to my email a short time ago I was challenged just to see if I could be inspired by Psalm 23. I will share that with you and a couple of things which have come to my mind this week as I took the poetry challenge. Do not be afraid to take the risk and to try. You never know just what the result will be and how much it just might bless someone else and speak deeply to their heart.  
    My Shepherd (inspired by Psalm 23)
    Shepherd, Redeemer, King. 
    All I need.
    Brings of Peace and Rest. 
    Knows my need.
    Restores my Soul.
    Meets my deepest need.
    Leads the way.
    I need to go.
    Walks beside me in darkness.
    I am never alone.
    Comforter, Healer, Protector.
    A Still Small Voice.
    A still small voice in the darkness.
    You are not alone. You are not alone.
    A still small voice in the darkness.
    I will hold your hand. I will hold your hand.
    A still small voice in the darkness
    I will light your way. I will light your way.
    A still small voice in the darkness.
    You are not alone. You are not alone. 
    You are not alone.
    I will hold your hand.
    I will light your way.
    You are not alone. 
    You Alone
    Standing silent before you I know
    You did not call me to be perfect
    You alone are perfect
    You did not call me to do it all
    You alone will do it 
    You did not call me to know it all
    You alone know it all
    You did not call me to choose the way
    You alone are the way
    You did not call me to be wise enough
    You alone are true wisdom
    You did not call me to be strong enough
    You alone bring strength
    Standing silent before you I know
    You alone are all I need
    Open Hands and Open Heart
    Open hands.
    Not holding to the past.
    Open hands.
    Ready to receive what you give.
    Open hands.
    Freely you give.
    Open Hands.
    Freely I can receive.

    Open heart.
    Not holding to the hurt.
    Open heart .
    Ready to receive what you give. 
    Open heart. 
    Freely you give peace.
    Open heart. 
    Freely I can receive. 

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 28, 2014

      So glad you took the challenge!  I love the inspiration and intimacy from which your poems flow. I too was touched by “You Alone.”  Why do we have expectations for ourselves that our Father himself doesn’t have for us?  Only in Him.  A beautiful reminder, thank you.

    2. Melanie Carey February 28, 2014

      Jennifer,

      Thank you for having the courage to post your poems!  I love the way you take a thought or idea and mull it around, looking at it from different angles before heading off where it takes you.  I particularly enjoyed  A Still Small Voice.  The repetitions are very effective, as so often in the darkness we need to hear those truths multiple times.

    3. Laura February 28, 2014

      Jennifer, thank you for sharing all of your poems. What great reminders of who God is and how He cares for me as I start my day.

    4. morielle February 28, 2014

      Jennifer, the repetitions in your poems are so beautiful, so full of comfort. Love how each builds on the other. “I will hold your hand…..I will light your way.” and then the two come together in the end. My heart needs these words so much.

    5. Kristi February 28, 2014

      Jennifer, I too, like You Alone. It keeps the focus on the important.  Him alone.  We look to so many other things to satisfy our souls.  As we do we get filled up, but not satisfied.

  2. Amy S February 27, 2014

    Jennifer, these are lovely. I’m especially touched today by “You Alone.”  It’s such a place of rest, to be a sheep in his fold and not have to be the shepherd.

  3. Amy S February 27, 2014

    So glad to be a part of the poetry prompt this week. Thank you, Melanie for sharing your art. I love the image of His “sharpened shears on the shaggy fleece of pride.”  I’d love to learn from you how you have helped others to write poetry, in addition to what you shared today.

    There is so much I could say about my love for reading and writing poetry. For me, the poetry flows as my way of praying, of processing life and hearing from God. I often start off a poem with an idea and it rambles on and on and brings me to some new and unexplored place and gives me insight and sometimes even answers. It is simultaneously my offering to God and His gift back to me – an act of communion.

    Sometimes in the daily routine, I get a flash of glory and it comes out in poetry. Here is one recent example:

    Let the laundry lead me

    to the light that dries

    clothes and purifies

    my eyes

    that I may see

    in every dirty cloth

    the opportunity

    to be clean.

     

    And let me glean

    from the rhythm

    of the swirling stream

    that jostles

    as it agitates,

    a reminder that will reverberate

    along the rim

    of restless days

    that stains need help

    to evacuate,

    lest the fibers

    of my unwashed soul

    find it easier instead to hold

    and resist the washing

    as a letting go.

    And here is the little kitchen and laundry area, with light streaming in, that inspired this poem.

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 28, 2014

      Oh, the lessons of  laundry!  Love this.  It reminds me of Brother Lawrence practicing the presence of God as dish washer.

      And the way you described poetry as a simultaneous offering and gift, an act of communion – I experienced that this week, and hope to make it a practice.  Thank you for sharing.

      And I love our little foreign kitchens!

    2. Melanie Carey February 28, 2014

      Amy, I love the rhythms and rhymes of your poem, as Danielle said, it also reminded me of Brother Lawrence.  So often we make distinctions between what is spiritual and mundane in our lives and I am working on mingling the two, but doesn’t it take effort!

      I really enjoy poems that look at the ordinary things of life from a new perspective.  Thank you.

    3. Laura February 28, 2014

      Amy, thank you for taking an everyday task and using it to remind me of spiritual truth.

    4. morielle February 28, 2014

      Ah, Amy S! The rhymes, the concreteness, the spiritual truth. I love this so much!

    5. Kristi February 28, 2014

      I love the image of the “restless days” being used to remove stubborn stains from the fiber of our soul.

  4. Debbie February 28, 2014

    I love how one idea such as writing on Psalm 23 can bring different results. No one poem is ever going to be the same because we each have our own unique creativeness.

    1. Melanie Carey February 28, 2014

      I agree!  I’m also interested to see how many of the poems here are actually written as prayers.  It seems that trying to concentrate our thoughts into less words may actually be good for us!

      1. Danielle Wheeler February 28, 2014

        Yes! I think that is exactly what was powerful to me, concentrating my thoughts into less words, cutting out the fluff.

        1. Jennifer February 28, 2014

          Danielle,

          I think that I am beginning to recognize that that is perhaps what can make poetry to powerful and so able to cut directly to the heart as it so often seems to do “cutting out the fluff”. We tend to fill our writing at times with so much fluff, so much detail, so much explanation, even so much qualification, that we can easily cloud or obscure the main message in what we are trying to say. Simply conveying a message concisely in a few words without “fluff” as poetry often requires, means we will one way or another, for good or for bad, convey a message which can clearly either express our heart or challenge the hearts of others. And because the detail is in some ways stripped away, we can often tell our story, but without the “details” that make it “our” story alone, so it can easily be telling the story that someone else is living through or has lived through but cannot put into words. Or speak just the words someone needs to hear in the place they are right then.  It can very much both bless us, in giving us a way to express our stories, to express our hearts without the “details” that in sensitivity to others involved in our stories may not be appropriate to share openly, and also speak to others.

          1. Kristi March 1, 2014

            I agree.  Writing poetry requires us to get to the heart of things.  It narrows our thoughts and feelings down to what is most important.  It brings out what it deep.  We must leave behind the robe of words and lay our hearts bare.

  5. Lindsay February 28, 2014

    Amy – I love your laundry poem…beautiful how you weave together the concrete of clothes washing and the much less tangible of soul cleansing!  Thanks!

  6. Amy Young February 28, 2014

    I have learned the importance of capturing the mundane (supposedly!) everydayness of life and offering it, repackaged back. I think I do something similar with photography — I try to capture, record, and remember, and mark that life happened. It was / is real and important :). So, I love the combining of a poem and a photo :)!!

  7. Janis McArthur February 28, 2014

    I spent three years in Asia, two years in China and then a year in Laos.  The last thing I thought about was spending this year in the U.S.  My life was suddenly put on hold as I started to have anxiety and panic attacks.  I entered a program here in the U.S. for restoration and growth and stayed there for three months.  During that time, God had shown me areas of deep hurt that all started from my childhood.  As I began to heal, I started to write songs, which are poetry set to music.  He has given me this gift and I would like to share this one with you.

    I Have a Voice

    I am free to be what God has made me to be

    He holds my entire life-

    Body, soul in His hands

    Don’t have to listen to the bully of  my past

    Don’t have to do what he asks

    No longer paralyzed by fear

    Those anxious thoughts that appear in my mind

    I let them go, I let them go

    I have a choice to listen to the truth

    Not the lies that Satan says to me

    He is a liar and a thief

    Seeking to destroy and to kill me

    Jesus came to give me life

    To give me joy abudantly

    He gives me value and of worth

    And He tells me that He loves me unconditionally

    I choose life, I choose life

    God gives me peace to trust in Him

    To set my thoughts fixed on Him

    He shows me how to live

    To obey His Word and to give

    Don’t have to listen to the bullies of my past

    Don’t have to do what they ask

    No longer paralyzed by fear

    Those anxious thoughts that appear in my mind

    I am free, I am free

    I have a voice, I have a choice, I have peace, I am free

    1. Jennifer February 28, 2014

      Janis,

      Thank you so very much for sharing this. It clearly speaks powerfully directly of and to the heart. It speaks both of your heart and speaks directly to mine, and I am sure to others to. I love the way that you pull it all back together at the end with “I have a voice. I have a choice. I have peace. I am free”. Thank you for your openness and honesty in sharing your heart with us in this way. It blesses and challenges us.

    2. Kristi March 1, 2014

      What a great song and testimony to the Father’s work in you life!  I can picture you playing it on your guitar.  I only wish I could hear it.

  8. Janis McArthur February 28, 2014

    Thank you Jennifer for your comment.  I am glad that it ministers to your heart.  For a long time I have written many songs and having no outlet to share them.  Many of the songs I write are straight from Scripture with my own unique take on it.  I finally feel that maybe there is a place I can express what is going on my heart.  Every time I have a break through or something God shows me,  I have to write a song about it.  He gives me the words and the music.  It truly is a gift.  It’s my way of expressing what He has done in me.

    1. morielle February 28, 2014

      Dear Janis, what a beautiful gift. I am deeply comforted by singing songs written by others. Your lyrics are incredibly powerful. I so wish I could hear the song!

    2. Melanie Carey March 1, 2014

      Janis, Thank you for sharing your special song and the circumstances that prompted it’s creation.  We rejoice in the gift God has given you.  I agree that knowing when and how to share the words God gives you can sometimes be difficult.

  9. Sarah Moulding February 28, 2014

    Not something that I have ever really tried before, or as Danielle, had much interest in, so it was an interesting challenge to start to think in a different way of expression, and maybe something to Iook more to use in the future, who knows. But for now here’s what came.

    But God

    Away from home, family, friends, the known
    A step into a new world, a strange world, alone

    Stripped of abilities, usefulness, identity
    Stripped to the core, red raw, scared to be

    But God…

    Formation of a new home, new friends, new family
    A deepening of character and understanding of me

    Relationships are deeper, life’s becoming richer
    The pruning sure is painful, but God’s not done with me

    Change

    Learning to serve
    Growing to care
    Reading to learn
    Trusting to dare
    Stopping to think
    Acting to save
    Serving my Lord all of my days
    Being willing to listen, trust and obey

    1. morielle February 28, 2014

      Dear Sarah, oh man. This is how I feel most days. Especially “stripped of abilities, usefulness, identity / stripped to the core, red raw, scared to be”.

      1. Melanie Carey March 1, 2014

        Sarah I agree with Morielle, the lines about  “stripped to the core..” are very powerful, probably because we all know how that feels!  However, I found the contrast between the long and short lines really effective  too.  We can say so much about how we feel in any situation, but what changes  everything is always “But God”, “But God”.

  10. Christy J February 28, 2014

    I do not often write poetry, but sometimes it just flows out of me, when there just isn’t any other way to express my emotion. I wrote this poem about the journey I’ve been on over the last few months. Though it has to be typed in a linear progression on here, in reality it is actually cyclical because I have moved through these stages multiple times.

    JOY

    I’m

    running

    jumping

    leaping

    uplifted

    My heart is full

    The road ahead is clear

    Victory is near

    PAIN

    I’m

    stumbling

    crashing

    falling

    broken

    My heart is shattered

    The wall rises up to impede my way

    Enemies close in around me

    DESPAIR

    I’m

    crawling

    limping

    withering

    still

    My heart is empty

    I cannot see through the fog

    Defeat seems inevitable

    HOPE

    I’m

    tiptoeing

    reaching

    trusting

    embraced

    My heart is Yours

    Your light illuminates my path

    You are the answer

     

    1. morielle February 28, 2014

      Oh, Christy, this is so beautiful. I totally get the cycle. I always make the mistake of thinking my moments of elation can last….Always. But the most wonderful thing about your poem is that God’s faithfulness fills every line.

    2. Kristi March 1, 2014

      This is the life to which we are called.  Thanks for the reminder that we are always moving, even if the progress is slow and painful, through His grace.

    3. Melanie Carey March 1, 2014

      Christy, this is a great example of how you write something to try and process your emotions, but then it also speaks to others.  For anyone in the “valley” now it’s a timely reminder that in God there is always hope.

  11. Morielle March 1, 2014

    On being one of My sheep

    Dear little miss gad-about,

    ever sniffing at the edges of pastures,

    remember this, my dearest one,

    before the barbed wire cuts away all the nerves in your face:

    There is no grass like the stalks that brush your nostrils,

    No cud like the taste on your tongue,

    No earth like that between your cloven toes,

    And no smile like the one to your left

    and to your right.

    The moment may not belong to you,

    but you will always belong to the moment.

    Remember, you adorable little puff of wool,

    that it is My moment.

    And today, you just might hear My Voice.

    Will your heart be soft?

    Will your nostrils, tongue, toes, and eyes be listening?

    1. Shelly March 2, 2014

      Oh Morielle, I love your opening lines, “little miss gad-about…” Such a true statement about the nature of my wandering heart. All too often I give in to the feeling that it just might be better beyond the fence that he has placed around me. I know it’s not true. There is much good pasture where He has placed me, but there it is, in my heart, all the same.  Thank you for sharing.

    2. Melanie Carey March 2, 2014

      Thanks for sharing this Morielle.  It’s very original and humorous, but also very full of meaning.  Listening for the voice seems to tie together both Psalm 23 and the Good Shepherd in John 10.

  12. Kristi March 2, 2014

    A Sheep’s Response to the Twenty-third Psalm

    In Your storehouse I will

    Feast

    My spirit will be filled and satisfied

     

    I will seek Your salve at Gilead for

    Healing

    My sin drawn out and wounds healed

     

    In Your footsteps I will

    Follow

    Through shadows into Light and death into Life

     

    I will rest in Your

    Care

    Where anxious thoughts and doubt are driven away

     

    In Your plans I find my

    Purpose

    My heart equipped to live and love Your will

     

    I will open my ears to Your

    Call

    My King, Your daughter will answer and come

    1. Melanie Carey March 2, 2014

      Thanks for sharing this Kristi.  It’s a beautiful prayer but more than that, it could also be a plan for life!

  13. Shelly March 2, 2014

    What an encouraging collection of comments and shared poems.  Poems do not flow easily from my pen, but it is a sometimes a satisfying exercise to try to write one for the reasons Jennifer shared. The first poem was drafted while on retreat in January. The second was an exercise to put into another form (cinquain) scripture that has been on my heart a lot lately.

    His smile, open arms

    embrace, empty places filled

    in me. Returning.

    _____

    Tether

    my heart to trust,

    anchor my soul in hope,

    so that joy and peace flow from me

    freely.

    (Romans 15:13)

    1. Melanie Carey March 2, 2014

      Thanks for sharing these with us. The first one looks like a Haiku?  I love the progression from “Tether” to “freely” and I also like the idea of adapting favourite Bible verses to a set poetry form.  I’ve been learning about poetry forms recently too and I find that trying to write something that keeps to the “rules” really helps you focus on what is important about what you have to say.  It’s another way of cutting down “the fluff”!

  14. Morielle March 3, 2014

    Shelly, wow, those are both really powerful. I especially love the second one — the verbs are so concrete. I can see the rope binding me to trust, I can feel the anchor holding me to hope. I know that joy and peace only flow from me because of them. I love this idea, you really brought that verse alive for me.

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