Shout, Shout Out from Your Tiny, Tiny Boat! An online Poetry-as-Prayer Retreat – Nov. 5, 6, and 7th, 2020 – Sponsored by Hillhurst United Church, Calgary


This year’s title for the Hillhurst poetry-as-prayer retreat comes from the Fisherman’s Prayer as quoted by American poet Dorianne Laux, a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize:

Dear Lord, be good to me,
the sea is so wide
and my boat is so small.

Please consider this invitation to shout out in your own words what calls out from the small boat of your life. To experience the mysterious alchemy of words of poetry that transform into words of prayer. And to discover a truth claimed by Christian Wiman, celebrated poet, essayist, former editor of Poetry and, currently, a teacher at Yale Divinity School: I do think,… that poetry is how religious feeling has survived in me. Partly this is because I have at times experienced in the writing of a poem some access to a power that feels greater than I am…

Through a pre-retreat poetry-as-prayer adventure, two two hour evening sessions from 7 to 9 PM mountain time, Nov. 5th and 6th and a four hour morning session from 9 Am to 1 PM mountain time on Nov. 7th, you will be invited to write your own prayers, your own poems, to honour the words called out of you no matter your writing or poetry experience. To find, as Laux says: the importance of the individual who is stranded in the swirling universe, a figure standing up against the backdrop of eternity. To register please click here.

I was pleased to base this year’s Hillhurst Poetry-as-Prayer retreat on The Fisherman’s Prayer as quoted above by Dorianne Laux. From this exquisite imagistic and poetic prayer comes, from Dorianne and me to you, the call to shout out your “is-ness” back to God, to eternity! And to do that through writing poems/prayers. Poetry as a spiritual practice!

In recent days I came across the Unlikely Conversations Podcast. There, the moderator, Ellie Roscher asked her two conversationalists if they consider writing a spiritual practice? They both answered unequivocally:

“Oh absolutely. The words of Jeremiah: the fire shut up in your bones. Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes.

Here is the verse from Jeremiah 20,9: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

“I think reflecting on the way writing is part of a life of prayer is an important part of coming to terms with how this way of being authentically yourself is part of your service to God and the world….[It] is part of the shape of our soul. Not all souls need to write to pray but ours seem to.” Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

What a great expression from Jeremiah. This idea that if we do not express God or, may I add, the sacred in our lives, we have this burning fire in our bones that must come out. And for me I don’t know what burning fire I have in my bones until it begins smoking out of my words on the page or screen!

There are a few spots left for this retreat. Maximum eighteen particpants. I would love to have you join us!

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