Home/ Dave Holt

Listening to the Good News in Poetry

Sunday, October 02, 2016    


Many in our readership are loving appreciators of good poetry. I enjoy how we share our favorite poems in social media posts and emails. Published author, Jeffrey Wattles, in his new book, Living in Truth, Beauty and Goodness, (universalfamily.org) includes insightful poems of beauty to support the quest for truth and goodness. Once, I even heard Carol Shindler deliver an inspired International Conference plenary speech based on a Rumi poem. So I think many of us can understand the meaning in one of William Carlos Williams well known poems, Asphodel that Greeny Flower, when he wrote: “Look at what passes for the new. You will not find it there but in despised poems. It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die every day for lack of what is found there.”*

In this love poem for his wife Flossie of 40 years, he wrote, “my heart rouses, thinking to bring you news of something that concerns you and concerns many men.”These excerpts I’ve quoted clearly show that the news we get from poetry is not the same as that reported in the daily media. He’s referring to something deeper, more nourishing, and life sustaining. In the reference to death, I detect an allusion to soul survival, even a hint about eternal life. If you “get the news,” you won’t actually die. You’ll do what we UB readers call, “graduate.” The poem ends, “Hear me out for I too am concerned and every man who wants to die at peace in his bed besides.”

The “news that … concerns many men” reminds those of us from Christian backgrounds of “the gospel” (Old English godspel) which both Christian and The Urantia Book (The UB) readers know to mean “the good news.” As Jesus taught his apostles, “Our teaching provides a religion wherein the believer is a son of God. That is the good news of the gospel of the kingdom of heaven.” (Mark 16:15; The UB, 142:3.8) But William Carlos Williams, a family doctor familiar with issues of life and death, didn’t seem to have an affinity with Christianity. He did believe in the redemptive power of “the imagination,” and I think he’d find agreeable passages to support his belief in The UB, especially one about the “spiritized creative imagination,” where “faith acts to release the superhuman activities of the divine spark … that lives within the mind of man.” (132:3.5).

Our local Marin County poets who are going to explore all the possible meanings of “the news,” for their next publication, may see it differently however. Those who are non-religious will see that the message we are to get from poems brings mental health, emotional intelligence, perhaps soul health, whereas I see a life of purpose that will transcend death.

Are poets still delivering news that is spiritually nourishing, leading their listeners to know truth? Yes, sometimes they are; perhaps fewer poets today follow such a path.

In what areas of society can poets find that their art form is still relevant? Where can poets do the work that will help the planet thrive? I myself, a working poet, often ask what exactly is our work? Engineers and carpenters build workplaces, houses, bridges, and highways. But what do poets build? When I started writing, my goal was to build a different kind of shelter.

I searched for a way to define new thoughts, to reflect them accurately and clearly, so they could be understood, to share thoughts and ideas that might be inhabited comfortably by another, lived in, a philosophy of life perhaps, to guide one in the construction of a character, to make better decisions about the purpose we wish to serve, or were born to achieve.

As Jesus said “to the Greek contractor and builder … ‘My friend, as you build the material structures of men, grow a spiritual character in the similitude of the divine spirit within your soul. Do not let your achievement as a temporal builder outrun your attainment as a spiritual son of the kingdom of heaven. While you build the mansions of time for another, neglect not to secure your title to the mansions of eternity for yourself.’” (Jesus in Corinth, 133:4.6)

I have chosen to make the art of poetry a feature of my spiritual outreach, a vehicle to pass along spiritual lessons I’ve learned from my own experience. Others among you might find it a viable way to share experiences of God’s presence and the reality of the spirit. In my readings, I use my own work mainly, but there are so many authors whose work could be draw on to serve and minister to peoples’ soul growth and deeper understanding.

Here’s one about the future life (the morontia career, The UB, 48:5.8): The Time Before Death(by Kabir, translation by Robert Bly):

“Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.

Jump into experience while you are alive! 

Think ... and think ... while you are alive.
What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.
If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten -- that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.

If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.

This next one is about an entity that accompanies us in life and the hereafter: “I Am Not I” (by Juan Ramon Jimenez)

“I am not I.

I am this one

walking beside me whom I do not see,

whom at times I manage to visit,

and whom at other times I forget;

who remains calm and silent while I talk,

and forgives, gently, when I hate,

who walks where I am not,

who will remain standing when I die.”

There are so many more. Go out and listen to some of the news from poetry!

*Note: the original line breaks in Asphodel that Greeny Flower are discarded in these quotes.


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