Poetry Corner

by Arthur Mampel

To my mind language has never been more exalted than when Saint John penned the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Language, conversation, letters, emails, communication, poetry, fiction, and other uses of the word or words, therefore, should not be used with lightness or in a thoughtless, uncaring way.

The New Testament admonishes us to be careful in the use of language: “You will be held accountable for every careless word you utter.” It further urges us to keep our speech bare, lean, and meaningful. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this comes from evil.”

The soul is not made whole by clichés or the repeating of worn phrases. When William Wordsworth said that “poetry is the language of the soul,” I take that to mean a language that communes with the deepest part of our being, a language that benefits the health of our spirit, a language that nourishes the soul! I mentioned in an earlier article that language communicates and is made rich when we use the language of surprise. As Marianne Moore put it, “Let us have imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Let us have language that ignites and quickens our spirit and energizes our soul. The “Word” is different than “word.” Word, as referred to by John’s gospel, is theological and obviously means more than mere language, but Word as St. John speaks of it, is also ‘flesh.’ It is grounded in our human experience. I once struggled with this in a poem I entitled “The Word.”

The Word

The elevation of the Word
Was lifted high and honored by
A God whose love was like a bird
Who soared in flaming symmetry,
Who gave us speech to move the soul
And granted to our poverty
Another way to name our role,
Another way to reach the stars
And move the mountains to the sea,
To be a streaking lottery
Of chance that lets us see afar
Another world where angels sing
And music rises to the heights
If we but use the word we bring
To those we meet both day and night
And do revere the speech we say,
As does the bard in poetry
A gracious conversation may
Save us from mere sophistry.

Arthur Mampel is a poet who lives in Seattle, Washington.

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