A splendid idea, wouldn’t you agree?

One evening last week I attended a poetry reading. Four local poets read, but it was Joanne Epp’s evening in particular, as she launched her chapbook, “Crossings,” a lovely collection of 17 poems in two sets: reflections on a train trip and on places in Saskatchewan.

            We stay close to the ground
            so the wind will not blow us away. (from “Wild Strawberries”)

I enjoyed the evening, the poets, and their poems. Joanne reminded us that the poet’s job is attentiveness, “to be captivated… and to captivate others.”

What I want to highlight in this post, however, is that the evening also celebrated Joanne’s four months as writer-in-residence at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church (Winnipeg). I’m familiar with writers-in-residence in city libraries and universities and writers’ colonies/houses, but I’d never heard of a writer-in-residence in a church. (It was a first for St. Margaret’s too.) What a splendid idea!

Joanne worked on her writing in a small room in the church two days a week, giving back through the chapbook, leading a small group on poetry during Lent, and speaking to the children. The concept of writer-in-residence, by which a congregation affirms the arts and an artist gifts the congregation, is surely malleable, though, to various shapes in various situations.

I’m recalling lines from Walter Brueggeman (in Cadences of Home) recently quoted by a Facebook friend : …our dominant tale has run out in exhaustion and displacement. In such a situation there is no easy or quick response. There is only the slow, hard work of poetic alternative.

Enabling a writer to “reside” for a time in a church can bless them to do some “slow, hard work.” In turn, the congregation can be refreshed by some “poetic alternative” to exhausted modes of thinking and being.

Do you know of congregations that have had a writer-in-residence? What do you think of the idea?

5 thoughts on “A splendid idea, wouldn’t you agree?

  1. It’s interesting to read this idea today, given the fact that Stuart and I attended the eucharist service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine yesterday. I can never go there without thinking of Madeleine L’Engle, who had an artist-in residence/librarian role at the Cathedral for many years. Clearly both she and the Cathedral benefited from it. http://www.madeleinelengle.com/madeleine-lengle/. Just found this on the St. John website. Look at all these artists! http://www.stjohndivine.org/home_community.html

    • Oh yes, I do remember now, the example of Madeleine L/Engle, whose books I’ve also loved, as writer-in-residence! Thank you for reminding me/us of it. Look at all these artists indeed! (How wonderful that you have these months in New York to attend and make so many various connections.)

  2. It is an excellent idea and an a creative outlet for both the literary, expressive and religous and those who may enjoy sharing with them.

  3. I love the idea of more connection of the church to artistic endeavors of any kind, but the written word seems especially adaptable.

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