Poetry in Advent

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I‘ve been, effectively, living in Advent since June, when all of our brainstorming for In Days to Come began, and in all of that hype, I’ve forgotten to slow down and enjoy this season now. When Jamie asked me to come on board for this project, I was delighted to join in on the new challenge, and excited for the opportunity to be creative.

If there’s anything that can slow me down and inspire creativity in me, it’s poetry. During November I decided to fast from reading prose and picked up some old and much loved volumes of poetry instead. The very nature of poetry, I think, is to slow down. Poems have to be read through multiple times and mulled over, each word weighed and measured before moving on to the next. As with any project, I approached this book from a space of poetry. In particular, I approached this project with the poetry of Sally Ito in mind. As our small group brainstormed, the traditional Advent themes of judgement, death, heaven, and hell, as well as the contemporary themes of peace, hope, love, and joy, kept coming up and it was soon apparent that these themes would form the basis for the book.

Sally Ito is a Winnipeg poet, about whom I’ve posted before, and who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Her most recent work, Alert to Glory (Turnstone Press, 2011), includes four Advent poems that pair the traditional and contemporary themes in the same way we have in the book. It is thanks, in part, to her words that we were moved to put the book together in the way that we did. Her words on Advent are poignant and inspire us, inspire me, to think about the more solemn aspects of Advent, to anticipate the waiting of Advent and not just the joy of Christmas. I’m going to continue my fast from prose this Advent season, and dwell on the rhythms, images, and truths of poetry, beginning with Sally Ito.

 

On Peace and Judgement

With good judgement comes peace, this much is true.
But there are different kinds of peace—
ceasefires, uneasy truces,
peace-at-all-costs, and peace-above-all.
Since we cannot always have out cake and eat it, too
we must often settle for the lesser kinds
and the rumbles they leave in the stomach.
This time, the promise is not of flesh—flesh to bear its name,
flesh to be pierced, bled and dried
so the hunger of our disgruntlement
may be met for a time.

If only it were so. If only in eating and drinking blood
we could settle all scores,
forgive and forget, be merry and celebrate.

Good judgement when meted out is all about festive peace,
but bad judgement cries out for more.
Barabas, Barabas, it says,
for there is nothing like the present to muddy eternity,
nothing like giving up a god for a thief.

 

Kyla Neufeld
Managing Editor