Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Why You Should Write a Poem (and How You Can)

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I am giving away 5 free copies of Dave Harrity’s new book Making Manifest. To be eligible to win, see the entry rules at the end of the article.

Making_Manifest_Cover_grandeHave you ever wanted to write a poem?

If you are like me, appreciating poetry, much less writing a poem, is on your list of “I can’t.”

My friend, Dave Harrity, founder of Antler, wants to change your mind and your vocabulary. Instead of saying “I can’t,” he will teach you to say “I did.” And he will probably have you add a “Boom!” on the end too.

In his new book Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand, Harrity takes you on a 28 day journey into writing and creativity. Into poetry and the beauty of putting words on paper.

The book is more than just a writing devotional, it is a journey into your soul.

Harrity will help you explore thoughts and feelings deep down inside of you. He will help you learn to see. And then to write what you see.

God is an Artist

Whatever thoughts you have about God, whether conservative or liberal, Baptist or Catholic, atheist or agnostic, I bet you have never imagined God as a poet.

Perhaps if you have spent a night staring at the stars, you can begin to imagine. I rarely see them anymore, but when I do, I am still struck with awe.

Or maybe, when you see something so beautiful that you lose the words to describe how you feel. A newborn baby. A painting. Flowers decorating a field. A fried Twinkie.

It isn’t too difficult of a stretch to imagine that God is an artist. And he is wildly creative.

What Would Jesus Do?

I have always been taught that I should be more like God. I should want what he wants. I should desire his will.

Before doing anything, I should ask myself “What would Jesus do?” But most of the time, I don’t know how to answer the question.

I don’t know what music he would listen to or what he would watch on TV. I don’t know if he would prefer football or basketball or which team he would root for. I don’t know which church he would go to. I have no idea whom he would vote for. I don’t know if he would drink coffee or tea.

But I do believe Jesus would write a poem, because he already has.

You are a Poem

In Ephesians 2:10 we are described as God’s “workmanship.” Created. Prepared to do good works. This Greek word we translate into workmanship is “poemia.”

The word “poemia” is referring to you.

When God made all things, he made it good. Beautiful. A work of art.

But when he made you, he poured out himself. He reached down into the depths of his soul, looking for the right words, the right phrase, the right feeling.

And he wrote a poem.

Join me in writing a Poem

If I haven’t convinced you that poetry is worth the effort, trust me I understand. It took me a long time to be convinced too.

I hope a few of you will give it a try. Consider joining me in writing a poem.

In Harrity’s book, Making Manifest, you will walk through 28 different writing exercises. Each exercise will help you to see and to hear life. And then help you to write it down.

Your emotions, your insights, your feelings, your words will add up. And at the end, you can write a poem.

I want to take this journey with you. If you are interested, let’s establish a Google Group where we can go through this book together. Everyone can go through each exercise on their own. We can meet as a group online once a week, sharing our thoughts and our progress.

And at the end, we can share our poems.

If you are interested in such a group, send me an email at js@jeremystatton.com.

Do you enjoy poetry? Have you ever written a poem?

To be eligible to win a copy of Dave Harrity’s book Making Manifest, simply share this post on Facebook and Twitter AND leave a comment below. If you share on Twitter, be sure to include my username @JeremyStatton so I notice it. On Wednesday April 10 at 5pm, I will randomly select 5 people and contact you by email. If you don’t hear from me, assume you didn’t win.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

This is the video trailer for the book if you need more information.

(If you are having trouble viewing this video, click here to see it on YouTube.)

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

Want to live a better story?

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65 Replies

  1. John

    This sounds great. But, too bad you’ve limited your perspective & encourage the same in others. “I have always been taught that I should be more like God. I should want what he wants. I should desire his will. Before doing anything, I should ask myself “What would Jesus do?” But most of the time, I don’t know how to answer the question.” Why does God have to be viewed through Jesus? Why not Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, New Age, Spiritualist, Shamanic … unless you want to contradict yourself and say ‘expand your mind’ but keep a small view of God. if you believe God loves only through Jesus …. maybe you should read Dave’s book. It’s good for expanding your horizons. With two kids adopted from China I think the last think you’d want to do is limit people to one point of view, even if you personally don’t ‘accept’ that other point of view, God is beyond being boxed in to any of our understanding – once we do that we place ourselves against & above God. And, I won’t mind if you don’t accept this comment being posted. :)

  2. I’m realizing I might just be a poet. That’s weird to type out. It is even more awkward to say out loud. Poetry has a stigma attached to it that is actually filled with lies. In my mind it goes like this, “poetry is just for girls. At best it’s very, very feminine in nature.”

    Then one day I read a poem called “The Crunch” by a guy named Bukowski. My eyes have been WIDE OPEN ever sense. Here is a link to that poem it does have some parts that folks might consider explicit in it–http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-crunch/

  3. I struggled with poetry because I didn’t have enough patience. Your statement about your eyes being wide open is what I find so beautiful about poetry. It helps me to stop and think. To see and feel. To question and to grow. Few other things I read do this for me. I listen to a podcast called “Off the Shelf Poetry” by the poetry foundation.
    I especially enjoy hearing the discussion about poems. Their is a recent one about Holy week that helped me more than anything I heard at church that same week. It is called “A Poet in Hell’s Kitchen.”

  4. ‘In Ephesians 2:10 we are described as God’s “workmanship.” Created.
    Prepared to do good works. This Greek word we translate into workmanship
    is “poemia.”’ That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. I’m so excited to read Dave’s book, and I’d love to walk through it with a group. Poetry is one of those few outlets that transcends life, and I literally feel light-headed after reading Frost, Dickinson, Neruda, Heaney, etc.

    I’ve spent the last month in an awful mood, and when my parents came to visit me last week, my mother accurately diagnosed me in a second. I haven’t been spending time with God, and I haven’t been writing. In MONTHS. This book sounds like a path I need to wander down. Awesome post, Jeremy.

  5. You joining us would make my day. I can’t wait to hear what you write.

  6. I’d love to get my hands on this book! I have always wanted to be able to use the written language as a conduit into the world for the feelings that I can’t (or won’t) say aloud. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! (And I hope I can win a copy!)

  7. I love the imagry of God as a poet because it conveys more care, concern and passion over what he is creating than a general assembly line worker.

  8. As a struggling but budding creative (aren’t we all?) I’d love to win a copy of this book :)

  9. Dave is a friend and I’ve had a chance to go through the book. I think you would really enjoy it.

  10. I completely agree. I wouldn’t even know this if not for Dave and this book. I think you would really enjoy going through it.

  11. The key is the struggle. Those who aren’t struggling simply aren’t trying.

  12. Poured into a poem. No wonder God sings over us. :)

    Even if we don’t see ourselves as poets, learning economy of words can make for some rich prose. I’d love this book.

  13. It really can. Poems are rich with metaphor.

  14. cool thanks Jeremy, I’ll check that out. I love podcasts!

  15. I found this very poetic writing in, Isaiah 18:4 (NLT)
    This is what the Lord says to me; I will remain quiet and will look down from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of day.

  16. Dave Harrity

    john… thanks for your comments! i hope the book opens people up rather than shuts them down. i think that–at least for me as a christian–that creativity’s fullest potential is found in the incarnation. this metaphor works for me, but i know that might not be true for all. the thing is, however, that many faith systems have theophonic concepts, though not exactly like the incarnation. i don’t think that jeremy was trying to speak for everyone across time and space, but simply himself. what you’re talking about when you talk about boxing in god is the idea of idolatry, i think. where we make something an end rather than a means–i don’t feel like that was the nature of jeremy’s post.

    i wonder, how do practice creativity and faith–do you have daily practices that root you in this world? open your eyes uniquely? allow you to engage? if so, what are they?

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  17. There is so much beautiful language in the Bible. I wish our translations did a better job capturing it.

  18. Dave Harrity

    jim–thanks for these insights. i think you’re spot on. there really is a nasty stigma around the art. the other one that always gets me is the idea that poetry isn’t for everyone. i think that with a little practice we can all become proficient enough for it to be a valuable reading practice as well as a contemplative one.

    bukowski’s poetry can be quite powerful. i think my favorite collection of his is “mockingbird wish me luck” or “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire”–have you read those?

    and i think you’re realization is also just right: you are. and it is a bit awkward to say out loud, isn’t it. but embrace it–it will keep you rooted in the world, teach you how to love it.

    have you ever written a poem before?

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  19. Dave Harrity

    i think you’re right! we’re not one-size-fits-all creations. we’re all made to make! how does the idea that god might be a poet change the way you live in your own life? what could you do to be more like god? where will you begin?

    thanks, tony

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  20. Dave Harrity

    i hope you do! you should get involved in the google group!

  21. Dave Harrity

    i agree. if you want to learn writing, the best way in is through poetry. it teaches you EVERYTHING you will need to develop your craft. do you read any poetry, sandra? if so, who?

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  22. Dave Harrity

    gloria, what do you like to create? i saw that you have a book out on kindle, correct? tell me about it…

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  23. Dave Harrity

    it is! this is exactly what you need elizabeth! i hope you’ll be involved with the group!

    my favorite frost poem is ‘home burial’–have you read it? intense!

    let’s get you back on track with your writing practice! you have much to add to the world!

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  24. Dave Harrity

    i hope you can to, tyler! you should also connect with the google group to move through the book! i think it could be a great opportunity for you if you’re excited to learn about your words!

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  25. Hey Dave, I need to read more poems. I think Bukowski was the first poet to write something so raw, honest, open and direct. I need to read more of his other poems. I find it pretty hard to find poetry I really enjoy. There really could be many different subgenres in poetry to help define the poetry–instead of the assumption that most poems are romantic or about nature.

    I have written some poetry, I just never specifically called it “poetry.” I’m actually working with some other writers on a poetry ebook for this month being national poetry month. It took me a long time to realize posts I have written like this– http://www.unknownjim.com/quit-pretending-youre-alright/ are actually poetry. Or at the bare minimum, very poetry-ish (if that is a real word).

  26. I have noticed that the form of your blog posts have transitioned to be more poem-like.

  27. Earl Rutledge

    What an awesome chance to reflect Creator’s glory. May the understanding that we are all poems and poets return major creativeness to Nicaragua. Paz y bien

  28. BrinaHarwood

    I sent an email to sign up for the group! I would love to win a copy, but I will read it one way or another. I also shared as per the requirement above.
    Looking forward to the whole experience! I haven’t written a poem in 17 years. It’s time.

  29. Denise Wirick

    I love to write poetry but would love a new spin on it.

  30. I don’t read as much as I should. I do hang out at TSP and try to read a poem a day from EveryDay Poems. I can’t say I always understand everything, but I do love the lilt of language and playing with words. Oh, and I was in a poetry workshop with Julia Kasdorf at Laity Lodge the year before last. That was cool.

    I don’t know that I have any favorite favorites–I’ve always liked Frost, Wordsworth, Dickinson… Lately I’ve been hanging out with Luci Shaw and just discovered Ted Kooser.

  31. Years ago I used to write poetry, it seemed to stop though after a tough breakup. This post has tugged at me to start again. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a poet again.

  32. Matt E.

    I would like this book / so I can learn how to write / non-Haiku poems.

  33. I think you have always been a poet, just one that took a break.

  34. The book is less about the act of writing poetry and more into the searching within that typically results in a poem.

  35. John, You are probably right about me. I am probably too limited in my perspective on God. I do believe we know less about God than we think we do. One of the last things I want to do with my words is box God in. He is far more than my pathetic imagination can conceive. I believe that this is one of the biggest problems with the American church. That we believe we have God all figured out.

    I confess that without a doubt I used to be the person you describe (and perhaps still am that person, although I hope to a lesser degree.) I hurt people because I was right and they were wrong. I shunned people because I didn’t approve of the choices they made in their life. As if it matters what I think anybody does or believes.

    I’d like to think I am willing to listen to others and learn more. My experience has been that the more confident someone is in their knowledge about God the less they seem to actually know. When we know everything, why bother learning something new?

    Pray for me that God will help me see these things.

  36. Dave Harrity

    if you want to write / then haiku is a great way / to practice your craft :-)

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  37. Dave Harrity

    i’m glad your feeling poetry pangs! poetry has been a totem for me, maybe you’ve had it in your pocket this whole time and simply forgotten about it. :-)

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  38. Dave Harrity

    then this book is for you! you should join jeremy’s google group!

  39. Dave Harrity

    awesome! i hope you win and that the book/group help you develop personally and as a writer! poetry is the perfect way to become human.

  40. Dave Harrity

    earl… i am full of joy at this message. i would love to talk with you about what is going on in nicaruagua and how you see creativity as an avenue for change. can we connect via email? if so, contact me via this link… http://about.me/daveharrity

  41. Dave Harrity

    that’s a really interesting way to say it…. thanks for that!

  42. Dave Harrity

    have you all read robert alter’s translations of the book of psalms? it is incredible!

    http://about.me/daveharrity

  43. Why haven’t you told me about this before? What else are you holding back?

  44. Dave Harrity

    awesome experiences! tsp is doing some great work! keep at the tough poems–the return is higher. how did you like the workshop with julia?

    you may also like billy collins!

  45. Dave Harrity

    yes!–the post is certainly postured toward a poetry… keep playing with the lines! great post! and hopeful.

    have you read anne sexton’s book ‘all my pretty ones’?

  46. I love Julia. I was pretty anxious about taking a poetry workshop. No idea what to expect. We had to each bring a poem for critique–read it aloud, have it read in another’s voice, listen to the feedback, get her verbal and written feedback. And then we did all these wonderful writing exercises.

    Here’s the poem I wrote if you’re interested. It starts below the photo of the lily pad. :)

    http://sandraheskaking.com/2012/01/because-its-my-birthday-horseshoe-lake-revisited/

    I’ve read a little of Billy Collins. I’ll try to spend a some more time with him. Thanks! I suppose I should sign up for the Google group. I’m trying to be a bit careful with my time these days as I’m also in Mick Silva’s memoir workshop for the next several weeks.

  47. I have never thought of myself as a writer. Just over a year ago, someone encouraged me to begin writing and I have. I had heard the term “poemia” before, but had forgotten that it is used to describe the work of God’s hands. Thanks for reminder, Jeremy, as well as the book recommendation!

  48. Thanks so much! No I haven’t read that book and it appears pretty hard to find……are there any poems specifically that you highly recommend? Thanks!

  49. Funny part is it came so naturally I didn’t even notice it until I asked a friend who is a poet. He said, “if you ask if it’s poetry, it’s probably poetry.” Ha!

  50. Julie Redwine

    I would love to go through this book… My kind of journey. I have written poetry-not so much to share but for my own therapy. 😉 It helps to clear my brain and soul. Well, kind of… ;0)

  51. I agree. It helps me to somewhat clear up my muddled brain and heart.

  52. Nick Friebert

    I don’t have anything fancy to say I’m my comment like other people, but after watching the video trailer, I really liked Dave’s way of sitting back and just observing God’s earth. I know I don’t take enough time to sit quietly and reflect but I’d like to read the book and start writing a better story with my life.

  53. Love to get this book and release the poet in me – or find out that he’s on vacation

  54. I think you will really enjoy the book. I also think all of us are poets, some just stop to listen and see and then write it down.

  55. I think sitting and observing and thinking and then writing are very valuable to trying to understand life.

  56. Dave Harrity

    maybe you have a time share muse

  57. Dave Harrity

    imagine how sitting down to observe the world each day could change the way you see it! do that for a month and your perspectives will change! making manifest will help you do that! i hope you’ll join the google group…

  58. Dave Harrity

    that’s how anne sexton started! writing for yourself is the best practice.

  59. Dave Harrity

    nick–embrace your poemia! begin working on a poem today! :-)

  60. Dave Harrity

    sandra… love your poem–rich descriptions… evocative and vivid. and the ending is a strong offering as well! keep it up and join us if you can! :-)

  61. Thank you! 😀

    I’m probably crazy. But I’m in.

  62. crazy is good. sometimes.

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