In part 1, I mentioned that I write poetry for 3 purposes:
1. to affirm truth
2. to celebrate goodness and beauty
3. to spur people on toward love and good deeds
Reading this, one might well ask, “but what is truth (or goodness, or beauty)?” At least, I hope one would ask something like that; it is a very important question.
My own answer to that question is guided by my religious faith—after much inspection, introspection, and struggle. I have become convinced that Truth is not subjective, but has been revealed to us by God through His Word. You can find the truth that I seek to affirm in the Bible, expressed through the Law, the Prophets, the Writings, the Person of Jesus the Messiah, and the instructions of His apostles. As the Scripture says:
“Let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor… Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Eph 4:29 (ESV)
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Phil 4:8 (ESV)
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” Heb 10:24 (ESV)
All my poetry, then, is in some sense religious (although some not overtly so), and I see it as an offering to God. I know that some would automatically reject it as bad on that account (and so reject so much of Donne, Milton, Herbert, and many other great poets celebrated on this site); and I can think of nothing to persuade one of such prejudice. But for the rest of us, we can recognize that religious poetry can be good or bad; and I aim to do the best with my abilities, such as God has given me. Again, as I read in the Bible:
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV)
Sometimes a poem has a direct message (as in Once Upon a Time); other times it is more oblique (for example, in The Naiad, I portray a man who has rejected truth and love in favor of a fantasy, with the end of provoking the men who read it to recognize and repudiate that portion of themselves that acts likewise); and other times I am simply depicting something that I believe to be a blessing from God. Some of the things I find most beautiful are godly manhood and godly womanhood; and I tend to write on godly manhood quite a bit (being a man, I am better equipped to talk about manhood than womanhood).
But there is another way in which this affects my writing: much of my poetry, I discover, seems to come from beyond me. I find myself at times seized with a particular vision, and that vision so impresses itself upon me, so captures me, that I feel compelled to some extent to give it form. And sometimes, I find that the truth I am affirming is one that I have not fully built into my own life—like I am writing to rebuke and exhort myself—and I have to wonder if I am consequently misrepresenting it, or if I am somehow, for a moment, speaking beyond myself. When indeed the wiser confirm that I have written well—that is, truthfully—then I cannot but wonder. Though perhaps there is nothing really to wonder at—my words may be merely my attempt to describe what I am learning and have learned, and should not be imagined to be anything more. I certainly shall not claim that they are special; but I think I understand some of the feeling that led the Greeks to think that poets were inspired by divine spirits (and led Socrates to wonder how they could not understand their own poetry). Anyway, you may dismiss this as mostly fancy; but I mention it because it relevant to the question: Why do I write? I feel compelled to do so.
Of course, no one is compelled to listen. But to those that are interested, I pray that my poor offerings may bless and encourage you. May the Lord God be glorified.