Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 31
4 November, 2012
I love poetry. Last week I had the privilege of delivering a paper with Carol O'Connor, manager of the St Peter's Bookroom, as part of the Carmelite Library's "Poetry for the Soul" series. We chose two very different, yet deeply soulful poets: American Pulitzer Prize winner, Mary Oliver, and iconic New Zealand poet, James K. Baxter. Mary Oliver was born in Maple Heights, Ohio, in 1935 and lived with her partner of 40 years, Molly Malone Cook, in Provincetown Massachusetts until Molly died in 2005. She is known as a nature poet, but themes of faith run seamlessly through her work. One of my favourite poems from the evening is a reflection on grief and angels (Oliver, Evidence, pp. 57-8):
James K. Baxter died of a heart attack on 22 October 1972; he was just 46 years old. He was a brilliant and complex man, and in one of his journals describes himself as: "a Catholic, an alcoholic, a writer, a married man. I wish to belong wholly to God." When on a solitary yearlong retreat in the tiny Maori settlement of Jerusalem, on the Wanganui river, he wrote a series of sonnets. Perhaps a little like Mary Oliver, he happened across the divine in some unexpected places (Baxter, Collected Poems, p. 455):
In an age where there is so much suspicion of the church and organized religion, poets play an important role in feeding the soul.
The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster
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