The Value of Poetry and Some Blank Verse: “Bits and Bytes”

 

The Cloisters

Salisbury Cathedral

I had the great pleasure of studying poetry this past semester with the poet and Christian apologist, Dr. Holly Ordway.  It was for a course in creative writing and apologetics (for HBU’s graduate degree in apologetics).  Not only did we study poetry, we were required to write it as well. Ah, what patience Dr. Ordway must have …

Anyway, it was a great exercise.  Indeed, I can see how it has helped my writing in general.  I found that writing poetry focused my thoughts which tend to be spread out and abstract.  It is a good exercise to move from the abstract to the concrete; to move from theory to application.  Poetry, with its rigid form and limited space, forced me to concentrate my ideas into concise, vivid pictures like a boxer throwing punches!

Come to think of it, writing poetry felt like being punched in the face by a boxer at times.  It was, by far, the most challenging form of writing we studied during the course.

One of the pieces I wrote was in blank verse format. I wanted to explore the theme of how our lives are dominated by technology, especially the aspect that we are connected 24/7 with all of our various portable gadgets.  It’s a kind of pseudo-omniscience, -omnipresence, and -omnipotence.  This vain quest of ours has become all-consuming as a result.
In fact, I think this might be a source of much of the anxiety and depression so prevalent in our modern world.  We are simply spread out too thin.

I decided to make a play on Apple’s “i” products as a way of comparing this egotism with the great I Am, Who truly is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful without being all-consuming (for, unlike us, He is all-good).

I tried to create a picture of someone whose life has been cut up and scattered over the various technological devices they own.  It wasn’t hard to imagine  – I just had to look at my own life, unfortunately.  In a very real sense, the modern world abstracts our lives, doesn’t it?

I gave a loving nod to two books that serve as antidotes for me, The Wind in the Willows and the Bible.  I believe that both put us in our place.
In particular, reading Kenneth Grahame’s beloved novel filled with talking animals and vivid depictions of nature that are both homey and expansive, made me long to disconnect from technology and retreat into this realm: a realm that is more concrete and real (and humbling).  Nature is God’s handiwork with its talking heavens, etc. (Psalm 19 and Psalm 8).  It is full of reminders of who we are as creatures created by a loving Creator.

night-trees-nature-landscape-yosemite-national-park-milky-way-usa-half-dome-mountain-stars-1920x1080

I also kept thinking of the picture that Luke 13:34 paints of Jesus standing on a hill that overlooked the bustling city of Jerusalem.  That text tells us of how He longed to gather its inhabitants “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”

Will He also gather the various pieces of me that have been scattered throughout this frantic modern world?

“Bits and Bytes”

In bits and bytes, my life is separated.

From morning, noon, and night a web is formed.

With ever present i’s the apple tempts,

To trap and keep me from my Eden home.

I’m cut and pasted, torn apart in screens

Windows, tabs, and browsers, documents.

The quest:  know all, see all, be all, throughout.

Networked, compressed, I long to be affirmed

Recharged with “likes” that formless faces give.

And soon, in “likes” I live and move and find

The all-consuming me, myself, and i,

That vainly see in only lonely ones.

Communal life is dead, unmoved, unfound.

Restricted thus I long to feel a wind

With willows’ scent that soothes fragmented selves.

And seek its living source, the great I Am

To free me from my boundless self-importance,

Into the real expanse.  To taste and see

How Goodness longs to gather scattered me.

Further Reading:

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (I highly recommend listening to an audio version as you read along – like this free one.)

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