“The Only Way I Know How to Be Prayerful”

Poetry, for me, has always loosened up the existential knot. My own practice of writing poetry has ushered me into the world, in a sense, has opened the door to a vibrant community of literary artists, has helped me to feel a sense of belonging despite my isolation. I often understand—or failing that, make peace with—situations, emotions, philosophical tensions in my life only once they are crystallized into language, only after I’ve struggled with the writing of the poem. So even if, in the end, what I’ve written turns out to be less than a poem, I am still better for having written it. Poetry allows me to process, to heal, to move forward psychically clarified.

Getting in the headspace of the writing, entering the poetic space, for me, is akin to widening the lens of my consciousness. It is a liminal space in which Keats’s “beauty” and “truth” face one another in the threshold, each to the other are accessible and work in concert to produce language that is, at the last, accessing something deeper than mere words. Entering that space of creation is the only type of churchgoing that has ever spoken to me. It is paying tribute to what I know of the sacred, it is the only way I know how to be prayerful.

Reading poetry is agreeing to meet the poet in that reverent space, to hear the poet with those ears, to be afforded a portion of the sublime, such as with the beauty of Robert Wright’s “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota,” the difficult truths of Jorge Luis Borges’s “You Learn,” or the poignant conjurings of Ruth Stone’s “Second Hand Coat.” Or the mystical beauty of T.S. Eliot’s lines in “Burnt Norton,” a movement of his Four Quartets, which read, “But to what purpose / disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves / I do not know.” He writes, “Shall we follow / the deception of the thrush? … Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.” The act of reading poetry allows me a window into that reality which is not otherwise afforded by regular consciousness. Poetry reveals truth that reality cannot, and in this lies its monumental power.

​Tamara Burross Grisanti’s poetry and fiction appear or are forthcoming in New World Writing, The New Mexico Review, and elsewhere. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Coffin Bell Journal, whose second print anthology, Coffin Bell TWO, is available for order now at www.coffinbell.com.

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