Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Easter Story from the Gardener's Perspective

Those of you familiar with my poetry know that I've had fun imagining Jesus alive and moving around physically as a human in today's world.  I've written about Jesus on the softball team, Jesus bowling, Jesus showing up to do hurricane clean up.

I also enjoy taking less prominent characters from Bible stories and spinning a poem.  One year, when hearing the Easter story, I zoned in on Mary thinking that the risen Jesus was the gardener.  That tidbit made me think that there must have been a real gardener, and that realization made me wonder about the Easter story from the gardener's perspective.

That poem has just been published here, in Eye to the Telescope, in a collection of poems that are persona poems.  You'll need to scroll down to get to my poem.

You may ask, what's a persona poem?  The editor, Jeannine Hall Gailey, explains:  "The definition of persona poetry is poetry that is told from the first-person perspective of a character who explicitly is not the poet; the word 'persona' is derived from the Latin for 'mask.' I like persona poetry because it allows poets to use a lot of the tools available to fiction writers; it gives poets the permission to use the imagination, to free themselves from the strictures of autobiography. Speculative poets already push the limits of imagination in their work, so this is a uniquely ambitious kind of project. I also like persona poetry because in it, you can choose to retell stories from a different perspective—often a perspective left out of the original story. If you are interested in reading a little more about the definitions of and uses of persona poetry, you can check out this essay on the subject, available here."

When I first started writing poems using Jesus or other people in the Bible, it felt very dangerous, almost profane.  I've had lots of teachers who always encouraged us to push through our fears, who said that if the writing felt dangerous, then we were on the track of a subject worth pursuing.  And so, I pushed on.

I've found that the process of writing the poems gives me new appreciation for the Bible stories.  And I've also found that for many of my readers, the poems that felt dangerous when I was writing them are often the ones that speak to them most forcefully.

Even if you don't think of yourself as a poet, you might try something similar as a spiritual experiment.  Take a page of paper and imagine Jesus moving with you throughout your day.  What would Jesus say to you?  What would Jesus see in our world?

Or, take a Gospel story and think about the humans in the story that don't have a voice.  I've long been intrigued by a reference to Simon Peter's mother-in-law.  What must she have thought about the events of Peter's life?  And mother-in-law presupposes a wife--but that wife is never mentioned that I can see.  Still, the idea of Peter's wife--I still haven't written that poem.  I think of Peter's wife, at home, taking care of the family fishing business, while Peter goes about the business of the early church.

So, take out some paper and adopt an attitude of play.  God won't mind.  Our God is not only an awesome God, but also a playful God--if you don't believe me, look at the variety of creation, and see if you don't see a sense of play at work in the world. 


rbarenblat said...

Are you familiar with the Jewish idea of midrash, story (or poetry) which explores scripture in order to shed new light on it? What you're doing here is very much in line with the classical tradition of midrash -- and the contemporary tradition of writing poems which arise out of scripture, and in so doing show new facets of familiar stories. :-)

Kristin said...

I have heard of midrash, and I'm honored to hear you think of midrash when you read at my writing. Thanks!