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Thread: Creative Writing and Personal Faith

  1. #1

    Creative Writing and Personal Faith

    I was fortunate enough to receive some correspondence from a professor of literature who is also deeply Christian in faith.

    I more or less realize that a truly devout Christian can never really feel comfortable with the way I think or write.

    It was just a quick note, really. They made one statement which got me to thinking.


    Quote Originally Posted by They wrote
    No poem is pure poetry -- but that is the goal. Much prose contains
    poetry, but it's locus and focus is not poetry.

    Poetry cannot live without a foundation of crystal -- the brilliant,
    unseen adamant of Truth.

    With that foundation, the poet not only lives, but plays.

    Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the
    Father but by me. Hard words. Adamant words.
    I may be misinterpreting what they are trying to say, but I got the impression that they feel that a foundation of truth is a prerequisite to that which is truly poetic and that only Jesus is the truth and the way.

    I understand and respect such a belief.

    I am close to age 60. I was raised with no religion whatsoever, never brought once to a "house of worship" or given even one hour's worth of "Sunday School" instruction. In my early 20's, I was baptized in a Greek Orthodox Church and entered a monastery for one year as a novice. I realized that monastic life was not for me, so I left without making vows. I remained an active, practicing Orthodox Christian for 20 years, but after that gradually drifted away from it, partly because I became conscious of what I considered to be weaknesses in the doctrine, and partly because I became conscious of weaknesses in myself which I felt I could never overcome.

    I wonder whether the professor's message is suggesting that I be more of a Christian. Or perhaps the message is that since I am not a Christian, I have little hope of acquiring that foundation of truth which will empower the poetic.

    I know that I am at a point in life where it is no longer easy to change or transform oneself.

    I have studied and practiced so many religions now, that I doubt if I can really join any of them. I think one becomes jaded after too much immersion in too many religions.

    I greatly admire the poets Wallace Stevens and e.e. cummings, who do not seem very Christian to me at all.

    It is supposedly true that Wallace Steven's became a Roman Catholic on his death bed, but there are those who dispute that.

    At a certain point in life, we must accept ourselves for who and what we are, and what we were. Not everyone can be a Christian and not every Christian can be equal in stature and nature.

    I suppose a devout Christian feels it their duty to always include some message or reminder of how essential it is to embrace the Christian faith.

    I imagine that sometimes Christian beliefs can be an impediment to creative writing.

    When I was in college, before the time that I became Greek Orthodox, I fell in love with the song "Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen

    Biography of Leonard Cohen
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Cohen

    http://www.lyricsfreak.com/l/leonard-cohen/82890.html

    Here is the part that really got to me:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jesus was a sailor
    And jesus was a sailor
    When he walked upon the water
    And he spent a long time watching
    From his lonely wooden tower
    And when he knew for certain
    Only drowning men could see him
    He said íall men will be sailors then
    Until the sea shall free themí
    But he himself was broken
    Long before the sky would open
    Forsaken, almost human
    He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
    And you want to travel with him
    And you want to travel blind
    And you think maybe youíll trust him
    For heís touched your perfect body with his mind.
    But when I became Greek Orthodox, I felt it my duty, whenever I sang that song, to change one line from

    Forsaken, almost human

    to

    Forsaken, all so human

    since any suggestion that Jesus was not human is technically a heresy.

    Certain performers have also changed the lyrics of "Suzanne."

    http://www.leonardcohencroatia.com/wbai1974.php

    Quote Originally Posted by Leonard Cohen
    Sometimes a line gets changed. Sometimes one changes a line, sometimes another singer is not comfortable with a certain version of a song and they will change it. For instance Joan Baez, I have heard her sing ĽSuzanneę and she completely changes the song. She doesnít like the metaphysical possibility of somebody having their bodies touched with somebody elseís mind, so, that offends her anti-clerical position. It sounds religious to her, it smacks of something that she doesnít embrace. So she changes it around to, like, I donít know, touched your perfect body with my thumb or something. I donít know exactly what it is [laugh] but she moves it around that way. But thatís okay.
    http://www.lyricsondemand.com/j/joan...nnelyrics.html

    Quote Originally Posted by Joan Baez version
    And you want to travel with her,
    And you want to travel blind.
    And you think you'll maybe trust her
    'Cause she's touched you,
    And she's moved you,
    And she's kind.

    I felt compelled to change the lyrics of another favorite song of mind to be more "politically correct"

    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnn...carpenter.html

    Quote Originally Posted by from If I Were a Carpenter

    If I were a potter
    Would you still find me
    And carry the pots I made
    Walking beside me.

    (the original says "walking behind me")
    Last edited by Sitaram; 08-09-2005 at 07:47 AM.

  2. #2
    Worthless Hack Zippy's Avatar
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    I don't believe that you have to be a particular religion to write good poetry or prose - or for that matter any religion. Take, for example, Homer. The Iliad is surely one of the most enduring (if not the most enduring) epic poem in the western world. Yet, Homer was a pagan, writing before Christianity. Similarly, there were many Taoist and Buddhist poets who wrote beautiful poems that pierced the very heart of truth.

    I prefer to think of the professor's comments as meaning that truth is essential to good literature, rather than a particualr belief system. After all, like everything, the truth is subjective and can be found in many different places.

  3. #3
    dancing before the storms baddad's Avatar
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    With respect.......IMHO......From the little you've posted of the intital correspondence from the christian professor I find it difficult to see any hint that he is exclaiming that truth (as it is relavent to human experience) cannot be told without the inclusion of some kind of devout religious belief as its basis. Maybe I'm missing something here.....it wouldn't be the first time...

    If in fact the claim is that truth/beauty/poetry cannot be accurately telling if it lacks a base of divinity, or that its font must believe devoutly in a gods existence, I must disagree. A love of god is not a prerequisite for espousing what one believes to be truthful , or beautiful, or poetic. I actually fail to see any correlation at all in these disparate perceptions.

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