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?