Kathleen Staudt: Poetry, Scripture, and Social Justice
by Gerry Hendershot
I'm taking a course at Wesley Seminary taught by Kathleen Staudt, "Poetry as Spiritual Practice." Actually, I'm taking it for the second time. Why take it again? Because it's that good! Staudt teaches seminarians (and "special" students such as myself) to read poetry and use it for personal devotions, Bible study, sermon preparation, and pastoral care.
The featured poets in Staudt's course include such historical greats as Gerard Manley Hopkins, but lean more heavily on modern and contemporary poets, such as Mary Oliver, Lucille Clifton, Denise Levertov, Wendell Berry and Scott Cairns. Class members read and discuss these poets in class and online. They also learn some poetry craft by writing original poems.
Of Staudt's several books of poetry, I am most familiar with Annunciations, Poems Out of Scripture. These poems are based on passages from scripture which are conveniently reproduced for the reader. Staudt imagines her way into the characters of in these familiar stories, and shares the raw emotions of their experience, as in these lines from "Thomas" (the Doubter):
The waste of it, to see you subject yourself
To taunts of bigoted soldiers, indifference
Of slimy politicians.
I trusted your strength, and now I am hating,
Hating those who caught you,
Furious with you.
Staudt blogs at prophetprof, where a recent post titled "Praying in Love - a Multicultural experience the day of the Women's March" reports a prayer vigil held by her faith community, the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Silver Maryland, which had been the target of a racial graffiti attack during the presidential campaign.
Staudt opened and closed the vigil and wrote a poetic litany or prayers inspired by the Women's March Manifesto, including these lines:
Oh loving One, who yearns to gather us together as a mother hen broods over her children: you grieve with those who are victims of violence and judge those who inflict such violence. Give us grace to work diligently for the elimination of all violence, and especially to create a world where all women and girls are safe from physical violence, rape and exploitation. Guide us and strengthen us, O God of love and justice
Kathleen Staudt is one of the featured poets at the Verse and Vision Festival of Poetry on April 28-29. She will lead a poetry workshop on the 29th at the Church of the Pilgrims. Go to the Verse and Vision web site for more information and tickets.