I’m so glad you asked–and now that United Adoration has hosted its first ever PoetryShare, I can answer your burning question!
Last week, six people gathered over Zoom as poets and lovers of poetry for an hour of fellowship in Christ. The gathering was intimate; but then, how could it not be, if we’re sharing the poetry we’ve written? And one at a time, we did. It was (as I always find sharing my work with others to be) terrifying in the lead-up, and freeing in the follow-up. You see, I always worry about these things: Have I written something good enough to read to others? How embarrassed will I be when I’ve read it? Most importantly, will they like it? I always worry. But with UA, I never have to.
UA does not exist to baptize artists by fire, or whip them into shape. UA does not exist to set some arbitrary standard or artistic worth or acceptance. UA exists to nurture artists in their service to the church. That’s it. In both its in-person (someday!) and online gatherings, UA hosts artists in a space of encouragement and of welcoming their gifts. So last week, when I took a poem I’d written (about karate practice, I kid you not) and read it to five others, most of them complete strangers, I wasn’t met with disapproval. I wasn’t subjected to exacting criticism. I shown the strengths of what I’d written (about karate practice, of all things!). I was asked questions about my writing processes, by people who have their own processes. There is a way in which writers can sympathize with each other, no matter how different their practices are, because they know the work that goes into finding a process, finding one’s own voice, and they know the courage it takes to share that voice with others.
When I shared my work in our PoetryShare, I was greeted with enthusiasm as an equal. And I was told that what I wrote has strengths that are worth pursuing, that my work is worth continuing. I was heard, and I was appreciated. I think this is something all artists hunger for; artists of faith may hunger especially to be heard or seen and valued within their faith traditions and communities. Faith can be such an important part of a person’s life, that if we are not validated within our faith communities, the wound can go deeper than it otherwise would. To be validated as a poet among other Christian poets is something like hearing that God likes my writing. It’s like being told that writing, which is so central to who I am, is not a waste of time or a distraction from the Christian life, but an expression of it. That it is good for my soul for me to keep writing.
I needed that. I think we all do.
So, all you poets and dabblers in words, I cordially invite you to next month’s PoetryShare. And the one after that. And the one after that. Your writing is part of who you are as a Christian. Keep at it.