Pithy Post: The Vocation of the Poet

In A Hundred White Daffodils, poet Jane Kenyon tells us what she thinks poetry is all about:

“The poet’s job is to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in such a beautiful way that people cannot live without it; to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name.  The poet’s job is to find a name for everything; to be a fearless finder of the names of things; to be an advocate for the beauty of language, the subtleties of language.  I think it’s very serious stuff, art; it’s not just decoration.  The other job the poet has is to console in the face of inevitable disintegration, of loss and death, all of the tough things we have to face as humans.  We have the consolation of beauty, of one soul, extending to another soul and saying, ‘I’ve been there too.'” (pp. 183-4)

I think she is giving us not only the job description of a poet, but also the vocation of a pastor. It’s one of the wonderful and terrifying responsibilities we who stand in front of people on Sunday morning face. What Kenyon describes is someone who is able to speak the truth in love with beauty. The ‘beauty’ part is a gift of God and a skill to hone, but speaking the truth in love is, for every Christian, a responsibility and a joy.

In fact, I wonder if most of what Kenyon describes should also be called the job description of a friend.

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