Ten participants gathered together at the Scottish Poetry Library on three Thursdays in a row this November to explore their faith journeys and to write of their transformation towards or out of faith. At each workshop led by a different poet, they tried their hand at Haiku and free verse in timed exercises and in free flow. Word associations and images suggested at the workshops stirred thoughts and emotions later in the week and several participants wrote poetry, some for the first time, some after a long gap and others who were old hands at poetry probed this new combination of subjects—faith, self and writing.
Having enjoyed the workshops, some were keen to sign up for a fourth workshop that we had organised as part of Scottish Interfaith Week, open to the public as a space where they could talk about their faiths with each other. So we had another set of ten participants on November 18, a cold Friday afternoon, with several joining us for the first time. Encouraged to write about the ephemeral and the intangible in concrete words, participants stayed on for the poetry reading we had planned that evening.
We had Georgi Gill (from SPL) introducing each of the poets who had run the workshops. We then had all four, Alan Spence, Georgi, Sam Tongue and Tariq Latif read from their own poetry, telling us a little bit about themselves and their faith journeys. Several participants bravely offered to read aloud from the poetry they had written—there were long poems, short poems, sad poems and funny ones. Here were a group of people who had moved across faith traditions—Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Agnosticism, even Atheism—all brought together by their love of poetry. What I took away from these acts of writing, sharing and reading were the deep connections between poetry and faith—for some the step taken towards writing poetry was in itself an act of faith.