After the Manner

Someone called me a poet
the other day,
but I don’t know: all
I feel is my
poverty, my
reticence, my
lack.

Still, I wager a
word now and then;
some wheat to the wind.

I’m not sure what
to make of those
seeds I sow, but I
know that any
omens are not my own.

At times words accost me,
and I see fire above,
and cannot but report.

I am not so much a poet,
but after the
manner of Luther,
a beggar.

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Ignite the Poem

I/ A single word can
ignite the poem, a
signal word that
plays the tongue and
stays silencing.
The poem
echoes beat of heart
mimics batting of eyelid
reflects crimson of cheek.

Ii/ The poem’s got my tongue, it
pinched it so as to
gain voice –
flaunting my sovereignty
in its bid to be blood and flesh.

III/ There is no need
to bother the muse – let
her sleep and I will feed
on the beauty of the day.
Let the muse be. I can
see a cloud parting the sky
in tenderness and terror both.
I am ignited in the knowing that
thunder is only the beginning.

Tales from my Office

This week afforded me the opportunity to move into the office that I will call home for the next 14 months, or so, while our seminary building undergoes extensive renovation. I wrote of this a couple of weeks ago, and noted that we are moving into residences converted into offices. I have the happy accident of being assigned a former living room, which means that I am now in the largest office I have ever enjoyed, or ever will enjoy.

In my last space, I was able to make use of a large ledge under a generous window in order to create a stand up desk, and so wondered what I would do in my new space. I found it quite helpful to spend the mornings standing at my desk, and the afternoons seated, a happy combination which my then configuration afforded me.

While moving in, I had need to remove some excess chairs from office to one of the residence quads serving as storage for our pilgrimage. As I walked about the flotsam and jetsam of this and that about to spend 14 months in hiding, I came up the display case that used to house a rather old German missal. It can also serve as a lectern, with a glass front on an incline that you can look through to see whatever is on display. Fortuitously, the height of this magnificent piece of solid oak was exactly the height at which I type, and so I decided to migrate it to my office after chatting with my Principal Dean, who gave me the thumbs up. I built a small stand on the wall behind it, to hold my 2nd monitor, which, with a second keyboard, provides me opportunity to stand and type.

20170428_153424

But as l thought about using this glorious wooden work of art merely to hold my keyboard, I wondered if it might serve a dual purpose. I then came upon the idea of using the case to display, one by one, the various art books I have in my office. In addition to putting them, one by one, on my desk, they will now cycle their way into the display case. This will give me the occasion, from time to time, to glance down from my screen to see sights, sacred and not, looking up at my fingers dancing across keys.

Something seems right about this: pictures picturing me squirreling away with words, all the while knowing that our happy pilgrimage together will one day end when the display case returns to its former glory, and me to a new office. For now, it joins me in the peculiar glory that is at the crux of teaching, researching, administering and doing the odds and ends that lend a curious concreteness to my day, every day.

20170428_153437 Soli Deo Gloria!

Without Pause

It is best, I
think, to write
without pause; to
push pen to paper and
spill its ink before
this wand betrays
its sacred task and
mine too.

Pens cannot
sin – exactly – but
they can be lazy and
so it is mine to call
it to its task:
to summon it to its joy
to raise it up for its occasion
to rid it of its insufficiencies,
which are finally naught
but lies it
tells itself and
sometimes me
as well.

I’m Turning a Phrase

My pen tends
this word and that as
seed in need of
field – aching for a
place to land and
fertilizer to lavish it
with a just-so adverb or
participle or preposition, as the
case may be.

I’m turn a phrase like
soil in spring; I’m upending a potato
hill in autumn, pregnant with pause, as
my hoe, my pen leads my hand
away from knowing and into
Dirt: life’s cradle, death’s bed.

No Fait Accompli

Last Friday I made my annual pilgrimage to OUF, the Ontario University Fair.  It is the largest university fair in our area with thousands of students descending on the Toronto Convention Centre to scope out options for universities, or more often, to make decisions regarding which Open Houses to attend.  It is a bit of a chaotic affair, with most students generally uncertain as to which program they want, while a very few know exactly what they want.  Not too many are hunting for theology programs (although it does happen!). Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, where I work, is a federated school of Wilfrid Laurier University and I am there representing both institutions.   I mostly ferry students from the edge of the Laurier carpet to another professor or student ambassador after discerning specific or general areas of interest.  I rather enjoy the day.  I get to meet excited and nervous students, connect with colleagues from the campus that I do not normally see, and bookend the event with a train ride.

 

Every year, the event sets my mind to the topic of education.  Universities are funny places, where most of the people who teach have little to no formal education in education.  Our university works hard to provide opportunity to sharpen skills, with special sessions, regular workshops, and staff who meet with faculties to develop their pedagogy.  At the same time, there is a recurring perceived conflict between research and education in upper education.  Some see teaching as a distraction from pure research, some see the two to be mutually informative, and some are really rather happy to have a career where the focus is on curriculum.

 

I remember hearing , some years ago, a professor make the observation that his vision of teaching changed as he realized that he was not teaching a subject matter but students. This seems sound, so long as the subject matter isn’t lost in the mix.  Our university, with its “inspiring lives” tagline invites me and my peers to imagine that inspiration is purported to be at the core of our mission, whether our focus is on research, or teaching, or both.

 

Of course, theologians know this word well in relation to scripture, and the claims that the Bible is somehow “inspired” or God-breathed.  In light of that, it might be a bit ambitious for us to imagine that we can inspire anyone.  Still, I think the word appropriate when pronounced with the proviso that inspiration is something that happens unawares.  As both professor and writer, I generally have no idea what will take off among my various audiences.  The best laid plans for a lecture run astray and seemingly unsatisfactory prose sings unexpectedly. Inspiration happens even though – or perhaps because – we do not have God at our beck and call.  The Spirit works in strange ways that sometimes and somehow echoes through what we do, bouncing back to teachers and authors who have ears to hear and eyes to see.

 

At the end of the day, education is sketched in mystery.  It seems like the stars have to align for those “magic” moments to occur.  And yet, they happen.  I ache for those moments, and so gladly travel to OUF, to look for the face of this student or that, who is passionate about learning and is joyfully curious about the allure of trails unknown; places where we discover whom we are, and that we will never be a fait accompli.