Since 2007, Nita Andrews has been leading small groups for men and women that want to examine the strong relationship between themes of living and writings of great authors. Often poetry is presented with the theme of the week for a CL class. Poetry is frequently referenced because it is portable and the author has labored to reduce complex thoughts down to their essence. Poetry is the English language in travail and this makes it wonderful for contemplation.  The labor pains of the poet convey “the pure essence” of a thought. When a person or a poem endures travail you will find that they can plumb the heights and the depths of our human existence. They face the abyss and report back to us what is essential for our journey. Whether a poet is making an observation or asking a question– we benefit. Great writing in any genre is a powerful catalyst for discussion.

THE PATTERN: Three or four days before the day of class an audio podcast introducing the theme is posted on the web for class members to review. When class begins we have an opening exercise. Then as the leader, I introduce the theme for the week. Then, in unison we would read or listen to a writing prompt. Often we would take ten minutes to do a “free write” on the theme or prompt. I always have a printed handout of the text that we are going to contemplate.  I draw on contemporary poetry, scripture, movies and/or song lyrics each week to build different ways of seeing the topic at hand. The media resources are carefully selected and they must have inherent wisdom and revelatory quality within. For each lesson we are seeking an insight that matches our common experience. Then we increase our attentiveness by practicing an ancient monastic way of listening called lectio divina. This format of listening and responding to a text, song, photo, or short story is a lovely way to open up your heart and mind. Rich contemplation and new creativity often flows from a timed concentration on ““the best words in the best order.”” We may or may not read what we have written. Some weeks we have an experiential activity to support the theme or we may do art journaling about the theme.

I have found that newcomers to CL have some questions about this creative endeavor:

Does everyone have to “get” poetry?

Do you need to love poetry?

Is the class for aspiring writer?   

You can be assured that this is not a group devoted to getting creative writing published. It is more about keeping one’s soul alive and awake to good questions and to be in community so that creativity thrives in every part of life. Many report that a weekly touch with the class supports their daily routines and underscores the calling we all have to bring art into life.As far as loving literature or poetry— When we read a poem there is no critique or debate about style. We view the poems simply as windows into the soul. We are not a writing group even though we may write poetry or prose as a way to deepen our experience of the author’s concepts. In many lesson plans I try to include biographies of great men and women so the class can find worthy companions on the faith journey. We also have weeks we study a popular but un- orthodox author so we can see the world view that has shaped their conversation with culture.