I have had a complicated relationship with poetry through the years–hating it because I didn’t understand it then scribbling dozens of them while on lunch break in the park during my journalism career then giving them up for years. I’m now back to reading–and occasionally writing–poetry with a renewed sense of awe and wonder. Poetry has a way of stripping things down to the barest essentials while still bearing a stunning beauty.
That is what I found in my friend Kelly Chripczuk’s new book Between Heaven and Earth. It is a book of poems–some inspired by biblical texts (Heaven), others by ordinary life events (Earth), and others about the moments where the two intersect.
Kelly has a gift for taking these ordinary events of life and familiar Bible passages and expressing them in a fresh way. I was moved to contemplation after reading each one, and I look forward to making this a regular practice–the reading of poetry and holding it for a few moments beyond the reading. These poems are soul-stirring, uplifting, and prayerful–a beautiful combination. (While I did read an advance copy of the book from the author, my opinion reflected her is my honest one.) If you are new to poetry or returning to it again after a time, Between Heaven and Earth is a good place to start.
The following is an excerpt from the book, shared with permission from the author. I had trouble choosing a favorite poem, as so many of them left me with a feeling of wonder and contemplation. One read-through is not enough. But this one, especially, evokes so much feeling in me and showcases the way Kelly uses imagery to draw attention to a familiar word or concept (resurrection) in a new way.
To Experience Resurrection
You have to return to the tomb
to experience resurrection.
Return to the place where once
you knew without doubt
all hope was gone, the last
dying gasp of breath expelled.
Return to silence and
the great tearing open
of sky and earth.
The first sign of spring
is the revelation of winter’s
destruction. Snow’s clean
slate hides decay. But,
when the sun’s warmth rises,
it discloses a depth
of loss – the grass,
brown and trampled, barren
broken limbs scattered, earth
exposed and the empty stretch
of field filled with brown stalks
This is the time of waiting,
the time in which we grow
weary and lose heart.
You have to watch sleeping
soil, pull back brown leaves,
lean close scanning hidden
places. You have to stand beside
the stone, Martha would tell us,
your trembling hand pressed against
its cold, hard surface. You have to enter
the dark cave, Peter whispers, not knowing
what you’ll find.
You have to sit through the long,
dark night to see the first light of morning,
to feel the sharp intake of breath
as the sky’s closed eye, cold and gray
cracks open slowly, then with growing
determination. This is what you must do
to experience resurrection.