Another event I was involved in at the conference I mentioned in the last post involved the poet Martin Daws.
I was struck by the way that, as with many great poets, when Martin performs one of his poems he doesn’t just use his voice but his whole body. Watching him reminded me of a phrase from the beginning of John’s gospel:
‘…the Word became flesh and lived among us.’ (John 1v.14)
As Martin performed I saw words becoming embodied. He breathed life into them and they lifted up from the page like a swarm of butterflies; lively, unpredictable and unsettling.
We sought to play with this idea at an evening event in the theatre. John’s gospel sees the Word as the eternal. John (or whoever wrote the gospel) says ‘the Word was with God and the Word was God’. For John this Word becomes embodied and is made flesh in Jesus. At the event that night I made a figure out of clay to represent the body of Jesus and then we invited people to come and take a piece of the clay, a piece of the flesh, and mould it into a word. A word to complete the sentence: ‘Flesh means…’.
We then gathered the words together and scattered them around Martin as he sat on the stage. I felt a like the sorcerer’s apprentice collecting the raw materials for magic and offering them to the one who knew how to weave the spell.
As we watched then Martin typed and the cauldron of words became a poem. With the poem complete Martin stood up and performed, embodying (or re-embodying) the words that we had moulded and offered to him. And then we spoke the words together, the words embodied in community.
Word made flesh, we take the flesh and remake a word that emerges from our experience, we offer the word to the community, the words we offer merge and are shaped by a wise soul and then re-emerge, embodied once more.
Everyday we speak and live the rhythm: Word…flesh…word…flesh…. All the words embodied in our lives, heard by others, changed by others, re-emerging as their words to be heard again and embodied again. It is a spiral of creativity and community that I find inspiring but also challenging. Because whether I like it or not I am responsible for part of that rhythm and my part in it may determine whether this swarm of living words that changes the world spirals up into the light or elsewhere to somewhere darker and less life-giving.
Here is the poem that emerged from that night:
Struggle In my body to touch you
touch you real
broken from sickness to death
the pain of life
body of life covers womb communion
newness of being sin reborn in transience
intimacy of un-wrappings – your gift of frailty
Frail love payment Shylock made vulnerable
touch tomorrow real
holy touch of skin
murder thought beyond beauty
thought beyond (your presence)
sacrifice mortality for mercy (in your presence)
warm juice of body caress incarnate (in your presence)
time covered physicality (in your presence)
mortal mercy being beauty (in your presence)
wholeness/hope/faith alive (in your presence)