Saturday, January 20, 2007

Poetry Church

Spent a Friday night at a little bookstore in Flint listening to and watching Traci Currie, a UM - Flint instructor and poet, deliver her goods. It was sweet. Such soothing pleasure. Just a circle of about 15 people in comfortable chairs, and the bumpy, polished wooden floors, and the Art Deco arched windows, and dark falling out on Second Street, and a little table with snacks and wine waiting for us, and a few people walking by outside, and Traci passionately speaking. After a frenetic first week of the semester, Traci's human voice was brave and refreshing.

Part of the comfort for me was the purity and simplicity of the situation: no cell phones, no TV, no email, no pixels. Just a circle of people listening, and Traci there giving us her all. The power of a single human voice, singing out.

I spent a lot of my childhood in circles like that: in Bible studies and prayer meetings in places like Calvary EUB church on Gibbs Avenue in Canton, Ohio, and later, memorably, in Blissfield and Nellie, Ohio, plucky, struggling little churches in Coshocton County. My mind and heart learned to receive and respond in those evenings of scripture and talk. Even when I was a child, the people in those gatherings welcomed me in and let me speak if I wanted to. I remember those people as kind and gentle. I loved their stories. It was never only about the words, but about the meanings of the words, and what we all thought about them. I have the poetry and rhythms of the flawed but addictively lovely King James Bible in my bones, and a fondness for the dear folk who sat around those circles. after hard days in not always happy lives, struggling to find grace and insight in The Word. That hope, centered in language, is still deeply embedded in who I am. The hope that language might be able to save us. Or at least, profoundly please us.

Now, I usually eschew traditional church. But I find the same comfort in Poetry Church, in rooms where remarkable regular people offer up their words, and where language still sometimes delivers startling grandeur and grace.

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