When Hephzibah contacted the Scottish Poetry Library to discuss her ideas for a series of poetry workshops exploring faith, conversion and spiritual awakenings, I was fascinated from the outset.
To lay my cards on the table, I don’t approach the subject of faith from a conventional or easily defined position. As the daughter of a lapsed Methodist mother and a sometime Buddhist father, my spiritual cultural inheritance is something of a hotchpotch. I practise meditation fairly regularly and, like most British people who wouldn’t describe themselves as Christian, each year I relish wrapping presents and scoffing mince pies while a choir sings Christmas carols on the radio. The nearest I can come to defining my position is agnostic: I have faith in my doubt.
God may, for me, ultimately be unknowable but that doesn’t discourage me from trying. Similarly, I don’t think I’ll ever write a perfect poem, but that only encourages me to write more. Poetry is a form we can all employ to explore our own feelings and experiences. It’s a way of getting to know ourselves better, of trying to understand that which is complex and also celebrate that which, of itself and in itself, is simple but hard to articulate. No wonder then that people have turned to poetry for millennia to record, express and share their spiritual lives. Prayers, litanies, gitas, hymns and mantras are intrinsic to all spiritual cultures. They are the metaphors we create to find a way of sharing what we feel, what we believe and what we want to share or teach. I’m really excited about the forthcoming workshops as opportunities for participants and facilitators to find the language and metaphor that will best translate and express our personal, lived experiences.
Georgi Gill is the Learning Manager at the Scottish Poetry Library