The prompt for today’s, November Poem a Day Challenge is “a pet poem.”
I’ve been working through the book of Job, and this passage caught my attention. In the Lord’s final words to Job, the Lord addresses the monsters of the world which Job has faced. These monsters are imagined and embodied in the figures of Behemoth and Leviathan. The Lord shows to Job something of his own purposes for the two. After Eric Ortland’s commentary, Piercing Leviathan, only such a revelation, I think, would warrant Job’s response when he speaks of those things “too wonderful for me, which I did not understand” (Job 42:3).
Job 41:1-5 reads,
“Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook
or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose
or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many pleas to you?
Will he speak to you soft words?
Will he make a covenant with you
to take him for your servant forever?
Will you play with him as with a bird,
or will you put him on a leash for your girls?"
It is a striking picture. The Lord promises to subdue Leviathan and to make him no more harmless than a house pet. And so, Leviathan is the subject of my pet. You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.
The artwork is available via Wikimedia Commons which notes that the image is, God fishing Leviathan, using Jesus Christ’s human nature as bait. Jesus is depicted crucified, at the bottom of a w:Jesse Tree. Miniature from Hortus deliciarum. between 1167 and 1185. w:Herrad of Landsberg. I think it’s pretty cool that the metaphor and imagery which I imagined was captured 800 years earlier at least by a 12th Century Abbess. Hope I get to meet her someday.
After this year’s Hutchmoot Homebound, Rabbit Room‘s online conference, an opportunity was offered to participate in a collaborative art project called Pass the Piece. The project randomly pairs two artist. One begins a piece of artwork and sends it to the second artist to complete. I received a piece from artist Dawn Waters Baker titled “Living in the Land of Uz,” and I responded to her piece which you can view and read more about HERE.
Just this week, I sent my Pass the Piece artwork to a visual artist who works with a variety of mediums. A dear and patient friend with just the right tools has helped me to create something to serve as a palette of sorts upon which my friend also engraved a poem I wrote which serves as my part of this piece. (Thank you Rick!) I do hope that artist to whom I’ve sent my piece can work with it. I can’t wait to see what she does with it.
It may be no surprise to those in the congregation I pastor, but I’ve based my poem on Job which has been the subject of sermon series as of late. Job is a book with which I have had a familiarity, but it, just like suffering in general, is not something I can readily get my head around. I think I’ve gotten a better handle on Job, and I hope I have a more honest and faithful and hopeful understanding of suffering. The poem I wrote is based on Job 38:1-7 which reads,
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?.
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.
The following is a step towards the culmination of a project sponsored by Rabbit Room called Pass the Piece. If you’d like to view what has been so inspiring for me, you may access the content of this year’s Hutchmoot Homebound through this weekend (Oct 28-31) beginning Thursday, HERE. (Note: You have to pay for the content, but it is so worth it.) You may never have thought you’d ever read a sentence like the one you just read. “Hutchmoot Homebound”? I want to challenge you that if you don’t know what you just read to “be curious.” There will be payoffs. If you do get access to the content, check out the Pass the Piece pages in the website’s Art Studio. It will bless your socks off!
After the Hutchmoot weekend in early October, a collaborative art project began in which artists were paired with other artists (much like a Secret Santa gift exchange). Each participant drew a name and for that drawn name, the artist drawing the name was to make something to pass on a piece of art to the artist whose name they drew. The receiving artist would then add to, augment, complete, respond to, you name it… the piece of art they received. Having participated in projects somewhat like this, I know how inspiring they can be. There is something about receiving and responding that resembles the surprise of grace. And, much like grace, the collaboration and responses don’t merely double the efforts, they exponentialize them. That is, the effort doesn’t merely become a multiple of efforts and creativity, but the end the product feels more like an exponent of the two.
At any rate, I was fortunate enough to have been paired with visual artist Dawn Waters Baker whose website you must visit and whose speaking engagements you must view. You will be blessed by her take on art and faith. You can find her online at www.dawnwatersbaker.com.
Through a bit of messaging back and forth and some personal discernment, Mrs Baker settled on Job as the subject of her piece which is titled, “In the Land of Uz.” In her painting, Dawn uses both color and imagery to communicate both the profound sadness of Job as well as points to the reconciliation at the end of the book. You can view the piece and read some of her comments on her Instagram page HERE.
In order to share both the artwork and the poetry I wrote in response to her work, I created a video in which you may view her beautiful painting and listen to the poetry.
Lastly, I just need to say how grateful I am to Dawn and her thoughtful engagement with a difficult subject like the book of Job and for her generosity in sharing such beautiful talent and art. My being able to work through and respond to her work has exponentialized blessing in me, and in a season which has felt so austere, this feels abundantly lavish. Thank you, Dawn.
You may view the video and poetry it inspired below.