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  • Writer's pictureTom Emanuel


“Theology should be like poetry, which takes us to the end of what words and thoughts can do.” --Karen Armstrong

Happy National Poetry Month!

As a writer myself, poetry is one of my most important spiritual practices. Reading or writing poetry about God or spirituality is certainly part of that. But for me, all poetry, whether “sacred” or “secular,” exemplifies the beautiful, mysterious way in which humans get to carry on the creative work of God. We are what J.R.R. Tolkien calls “sub-creators”: we can’t call the Universe into being with a Word, but we can summon up whole galaxies of meaning and imagination with our words. And always poetry points beyond “what words and thoughts can do,” as Karen Armstrong says. A great poem doesn’t merely entertain us; it makes us feel something, experience something, that we wouldn’t have otherwise. And no description, no matter how precise or evocative, can capture the fullness of an experience… kind of how words can never capture the fullness of God!

My hands-down favorite poet is the great Beat writer Allen Ginsberg. (That’s him in the photo above, reading his epic poem “Howl” in 1966.) Allen’s poetry is raw, honest, passionate, and delightfully funny. But what I love best about him is his utter shamelessness. For Allen, being human—in all its sublimity and silliness, all its messiness and magnificence—is the greatest blessing in the world, and nothing to be ashamed of. This, to me, is deep spirituality, the acceptance and ecstatic celebration of God’s greatest gift: Life.

In that spirit, I offer Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Psalm III” below. May all of us be poetically inspired to see beauty and seek truth; to be shameless in our delight at Creation; and to share in God’s work of creativity, which began on the First Day and continues within, among, and all around us.

Blessin’s, --Tom

THIS WEEK’S QUESTIONS: Do you have a favorite poem or poet? How does making and appreciating art help us know God?


Allen Ginsberg

To God: to illuminate all men. Beginning with Skid Road. Let Occidental and Washington be transformed into a higher place, the plaza of eternity. Illuminate the welders in shipyards with the brilliance of their torches. Let the crane operator lift up his arm for joy. Let elevators creak and speak, ascending and descending in awe. Let the mercy of the flower’s direction beckon in the eye. Let the straight flower bespeak its purpose in straightness—to seek the light. Let the crooked flower bespeak its purpose in crookedness—to seek the light. Let the crookedness and straightness bespeak the light. Let Puget Sound be a blast of light. I feed on your Name like a cockroach on a crumb—this cockroach is holy.

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