The Architecture of Our Lives

Poetry is not only dream and vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears and what has never been before.
Poetry Is Not A Luxury, Audre Lorde

The older I become, the more I am drawn into poetry, all kinds of poetry–but not necessarily all poems. I have a growing collection of the works of poets wildly differing–in age, in gender, in ethnicity, in writing style, in the intentions they seem to have for their poems, in the words they choose, in the subtlety and boldness with which they lay words out for my heart and mind to receive. 

This observation by Audre Lorde, who described herself as “black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, mother, warrior, and poet” stopped me in my tracks. It invites me to look at that growing collection of poets in my library and notice how each of them in different ways speaks into my bones, into my heart, into the “architecture” of my life. 

Sometimes, they say things in their poetry that confirm and affirm and settle something in me. More and more, they say things in their poetry that rattle my bones a little (or a lot). Sometimes, poets say things in their works that slow me down, draw me in, open me up and give me the gift of new understanding about myself, about the world, about other beings of all sorts. 

In her essay, Poetry Is Not a Luxury (which you can read here)  Lorde makes the point much more clearly: This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are, until the poem, nameless and formless-about to be birthed, but already felt.

Poets, then, wield the power to help us understand things that already belong to us but which may just be living as a barely felt feeling–until their words give them a name.

Some religious communities practice what is called a “closed canon.” That means that when they gather for worship, the sacred texts can only come from the officially recognized scriptures or texts.  I understand that that is a religious community’s right to practice and that it is an attempt to give clearer guidance to its adherents. I celebrate the pluralistic approach that Unitarian Universalism takes to sacred texts. 

So, what are our sacred texts?  The ones that comfort and confirm us. The ones that rattle our bones. The ones that slow us down and draw us in and help us name those barely felt feelings inside. And so many of these sacred texts come from poets.  

~Bob Patrick

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2 Responses to The Architecture of Our Lives

  1. Peggy A says:

    Pluralism of texts used in our worship is what drew me into Unitarian Universalism. Thanks, Bob, for reminding me of that.

  2. katrina P yurko says:

    We “humanists” seem to have a greater affinity for the humanities. The Arts, the language of pathos/ethos/ philosophy, connect us at deeper levels than the language we use in routine conversations. The language of poetry, prose, lyrics, visual and dramatic
    expressions are the conduit of the mystics…the ones on a search to find “the words that give it a name”.

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