Poetry, like song, reaches into parts of our being that words alone cannot. Poems have the possibility of opening our hearts to God.
While I was in high school my parents gave me a copy of the thin blue hardback collection of Kenneth Boulding’s Nayler sonnets, based on James Nayler’s testimony, given in 1660 as he lay dying after an attack by robbers. I knew that Kenneth had written these words in the unimaginably dark days of World War II. I learned later from Kenneth’s son Russeell that he also wrote them in a period of spiritual turmoil, when he and Elise’s attempts to lift up the Quaker peace testimony were repudiated by the Friends Meeting they were attending at the time. These sonnets played a large role in my own spiritual formation as a Friend.
There Is a Spirit: The Nayler Sonnets
My parents were on the staff of Pendle Hill from 1967-71. I had the chance to meet the Quaker poet Winifred Rawlins and hear her reading some of her own poems. I bought two of her collections at the time. The poem below has continued to remind me throughout my life of the caring at the heart of the universe.
Are We Held
Oliver’s poems are beloved by many people of faith for their gentle wisdom and tenderness. “Heavy” deals with grief and letting go.
The Harvest This poem was written in 2000. It reflected my own memories of being part of New Swarthmoor, a Young Adult Friends community from 1969-74 that dreamed of being the seed of spiritual transformation in the world around us.
We would like to put up poems by Wendell Berry, Rumi, Rilke, and of course other Quaker poets. What poems that have played a role in your own spiritual journey – or which you’ve been given at retreats or in other spiritual formation settings? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org