Poetry & Christendom (John Piper)

I am a writer and lover of poetry.  I am also a writer of creative things, like stories.  I am currently writing a novel, the title of which has the initials M.O.  The Christian church actually has a rich heritage of poetry writing.  I recently came across a free, downloadable book by American preacher John Piper on this topic, called ‘Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully: The Power of Poetic Effort in the Work of George Herbert, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis (PDF)’.  I thought I would put it up here for others to enjoy, in the hope that it will inspire a new generation of Christian creative writers.

God bless, Pastor Felix.

Categories: Biography, Poetry | Leave a comment

The Sandwich

Some reflections on my childhood, having to leave our first home, and the hope of the Sandwich.  It is in the form of a sestina (which is where the word at the end of every line is repeated in each subsequent stanza, albeit in a different order.  At the end of the sestina is a conclusion which uses all the end words).  

 

‘The Sandwichby Felix Sennitt (April 2020)

 

The fuel for school was the sandwich:

Not much to look at, but trusty

Though at times they frowned, flatly staid,

As was life in my boyhood home.

Incinerated leaves rested

When cool afternoons torched their brown.

 

The small Paddington suitcase brown

Dutifully carried each sandwich

From house to kindy, where it rested

In my locker tried and trusty.

Afternoon cartoons calmed our home

From weary, stressful study staid.

 

At Nanna’s house I wish I’d stayed

Longer though she chain-smoked to brown

The cracked roof of that Northbridge home.

Oh the mischief, fun, and sand which

I played with then!  Not as trusty

Is today. Back then I rested. 

 

In our rooms our spirits rested

On sheet and blanket patterns staid.

The Father’s hands, firm but trusty,

Sustained me on a bed frame brown

While lying flat, gently sandwiched

Inside the bunkbed of that home.

 

It hurt when to the past that home

Receded; minds rarely rested

In the new wealthy box sandwiched

Between bigger money and staid.

Gone were the days of lilting brown

Of residence warm and trusty. 

 

How I yearn for eras trusty

Just like the comfort of that home

And more.  When my green turns to brown

The soul in Christ, calm and rested,

Will pass to glory from the staid

To banquet on game and sandwich. 

 

Life’s distractions seem so trusty.  On what are expectations rested?  No man stays in his first home: he flees from the forlorn and staid.  For what?  The best hopes dry to brown.  The Bread of Life is my sandwich.

Categories: Autobiographical, God's Attributes, Sestina

Flummoxed by Books

Some reflections on what it was like learning at high school, in the form of a Petrarchan sonnet.

 

‘Flummoxed by Booksby Felix Sennitt (April 2020)

 

A schoolbag weighed and bricked with bulky books

Lay on my back with promises to teach

Me all the worldly wisdom one could reach;

Like a snail burdened by the world I looked.

Inside, the squashed black bananas which took

Up residence stained tomes of knowing speech.

From school to station I dragged like a leech,

With work to keep me drinking from the brook

Of knowledge.  Later, this bubble

Lifted with opened, spreading wings to fly

Away to leave alone so I could traipse

The path laid out for me.  No more trouble

Of bouldered insight would obscure the sky,

That haven which keeps its broad, open space.

Categories: Autobiographical

Want to Know What it was Like?

Here is some verse I wrote about what it was like to be growing up.  It has had a lot of influence on me:

 

‘Want to Know What it was Like to be Me?by Felix Sennitt (April 2020)

 

Want to know what it was like to be me,

Trapped under the ice while others skated

Above my head enjoying movement free

While I in fear lay looking up … and waited?

 

The twisted crown of expectations high

To earn top dollar as legal eagle,

Accountant, or consultant wouldn’t slide.

My inner desires seemed oh so feeble.

 

Aged five I read the daily finance news,

Which wouldn’t build with me a Lego fort.

From tasks as these I never could refuse;

My heart was not, with money, ever bought.

 

Her cancer taught me not to laugh at life,

While he believed that joy was found in bucks.

Sweet bliss would come when night turned off the lights,

Or silence played with me some cars and trucks.

 

Bragging babble of “I’ve got THIS!” was loud,

Although I yearned to sit upon his knee

To hear, “Of you, my son, I am so proud”.

Now you know what it was like to be me.

Categories: Autobiographical

Philosophical Wisdom (a Heroic)

Here is some verse I wrote about the emptiness of human philosophy, à la John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, when Christian encounters Worldly Wiseman.  How do you answer worldly wisdom?  Here is what I would say, in the form of a heroic:

 

‘Philosophical Wisdomby Felix Sennitt (April 2020)

 

Along a path I walked, my prayers in mind,

Until the straight and narrow turned to wind:

In pin-striped suit and red fedora hat,

There was a lonesome man who simply sat. 

With the buttered voice of education,

His rounded vowels spoke a declaration

As he stood when I passed his shadowed bench.

His lilting academic tone seemed wrenched.

“Sir, you are trekking a path which shall fork.

I shall join you; you shall learn from my talk”,

Pressed he.  “Good grief, no thanks”, I screamed inside,

Though I fought to ensure it did not slide

Out, and I reluctantly acquiesced. 

Then he babbled on like a soul obsessed. 

 

“I am a figure, well renowned to some:

My name is Philosophical Wizz-Dumb. 

I can see you carry a well-read Bible

In your hand, though it’s unreliable.

Well, I’ve been around for hundreds of years,

Seen many people with worries and fears. 

If you think your God will teach you life’s ways

You’d better first hear what I have to say”,

He said with a grin which pierced dark and cold.

I wanted to see how this would unfold. 

 

With more Wizz and Dumb this aged fellow

Spoke of -isms and thoughts of men mellow,

Voracious, systematic, and published,

Who wrote papers, though some had been rubbished.

“Marx, as you see, had an honest passion,

To toil for workers with great compassion. 

There’s Foucault, Descarte, and Neitzsche the German

Who sought to rat out the human vermin,

Charles Darwin penned with smashing precision

Against creation with such derision!

Holds sway does Dick Dawkins who hates so much;

He blinds with science.  He’s cold to the touch.

Though Stephen Hawking spoke like a machine

Men hope, in aliens, for light to be seen. 

The truth is out there for you to discover,

Rainbows of thought to learn and uncover. 

Why use the Scriptures as your only source

When Philosophy’s armies wrote and fought

To enlighten your eyes?”, this man gushed out.

I discovered the words to win this bout. 

 

“While on my walk I was calm and relaxed,

Then weathered the storm of blows and attacks

Which you launched on me quite uninvited;

Your passion, sir, was quite unrequited.

Questions of whether I exist or not

Have taken my feet to a murky spot,

And now I am far from my loving Home,

And now I feel scared and very alone.

In the last twenty minutes and two hours

I have heard so much about human powers

Of reason and titles so grandiose,

Of contradiction and Anything Goes.

Which philosophy is best?  Please tell me.

The options are as vast as the ocean, see”,

I gave reply to this old, rambling soul.

“Such propositions are dead, on the whole,

For which of your authors of basic thought

Shed both soul and blood for my ransom sought?

Did they set the world and stars in motion,

Make man in their image?  Fill the ocean?

Which of them suffered the mean, tortured Cross

To die for sinners and seek out the lost?

Your Neitzsche and Marx dreamed of killing men;

My Saviour, Christ, took on Hell to save them.

Can cold philosophy comfort a heart,

Wipe tears of grief, or paint the greatest art

The world has ever seen?  Education

Snatched from Eden’s dead tree of damnation

Will cost the souls of every man and child.

Be gone, Doctor Wizz-Dumb, back to the wild!”

 

With that the man turned serpent and slithered

To the top of a tree cracked and withered. 

His clothes turned to fruit from the Tree of Know;

Against me he spat some hisses of woe. 

Back Home ran I; with my Bible I fled

To my Saviour’s bosom, my sweetened bed.

Categories: Felix's Verse

Poem of Lament (to my deceased mother)

Given that I am writing a Masters thesis about how poetic verse can be used to help process grief and lament, I thought it would be worthwhile to write some verse lamenting my mother’s death back in 2001.  May this help inspire others to write their own verse to process their own deep pain.  It also ends with the hope of Jesus and His resurrection –

 

‘The Day Jill Diedby Felix Sennitt (April 2020)

 

That fateful day, the ninth of March, you died.

We saw you with our own hands soaped, washed, and dried.

Daily I’d fed you some Sustagen meals

With much careful thought for what you did feel,

And your gargling throat.

 

Before you surrendered your final croak

I never heard the lasting words you spoke.

Through overcast weather I ran to you

To sustain you more with hospital food,

But your life was past.

 

The body cold with blood unflowing fast

Or slow, there you lay as we stood aghast. 

Who was that woman who lay on the bed?

Was it you, or simply a corpse instead?

I kissed you once more.

 

You looked as you did when you used to snore

When I said something and then you got bored.

To see you there I just wanted to shout,

To get you up and walking about.

But no more of that. 

 

At home, as you asked, I fed our old cat

And helped your husband to do this and that,

Smelled the clothes left behind in the closet,

Your rags, your memorial deposit. 

I wanted your food.

 

I felt so orphaned, and thought you so rude,

Though gladdened to see no more of your moods.

The house was chilly without your small frame

And I froze when others called out your name.

“Felix, how is Jill?”,

 

They used to ask, as though I could instill

Some hope that one day they won’t die; but still

I could not mourn unpestered and I raged

Without rhyme or reason.  Life turned a page,

Then you were past tense.

 

Walking with grieving burden was intense,

A deadened rot not sweetened by incense.

Within me was a forsaken little boy,

Who cared no more for friends, TV, and toys.

Vanished was your mist

 

Though still you lived on, in part, as I missed

Your brightened spark, the humour, and wet kiss,

How you pottered about with helping hands,

And sat by the pond with your wine and man. 

Those were the old days.

 

Now with my own wife and girls you’re away.

What good advice could you give me today?

Sadly, I cannot just pick up the phone

Or come on over to stay at your home.

Yet I shall survive –

 

Just writing this verse has kept me alive,

To speak of how I feel, and onwards I thrive.

The Man of Sorrows walked out of the tomb

To overcome death and enter the room

Of my grieving heart,

 

To restore what burned when the fire did spark,

To give new life when you had to depart.

I hereby let you go, a spark to fly:

In my forgiveness I bid you goodbye.

In Christ, no one dies. .

Categories: Autobiographical, Lament, Poetry

Colour: Purple (a Petrarchan sonnet)

Here is a poetic reflection on the colour purple.  It is in the form of a Petrarchan sonnet.  May you enjoy it as you read it aloud.

 

‘Purpleby Felix Sennitt (April 2020)

 

From distance long the earth rotates in blue

Obscured by attention-seeking white clouds

Which would make tantrum-screaming toddlers proud.

Great battles interlock between these hues.

On plainer fields of earth little purple

Shows forth as reds, much green, and yellow, browns

Paint the land, its rocks, trees, and greying owls.

At night waves crash in black for the turtles. 

From hiding, purple rears its gloried head

In peacock feathers and late desert dusk. 

This royal colour soothes with majesty,

A pillow on which to lie in bed,

A comfort serenely perfumed with trust,

The robe which Jesus wore to Calvary.

Categories: Colours, Petrarchan sonnet

Mary Sidney of Pembroke

I do not usually like to read other poets, not because I dislike their poetic abilities but too much of it celebrates atheism, the honouring of Greco-Roman gods, as well as highly crass, sexualised themes.  I discovered that it is hard to find decent poesy (poetry) that honours God … until I discovered the likes of George Herbert and John Donne.  However, I also discovered an amazing female author named Mary Sidney of Pembroke.  This Protestant soul was a sensational poet, who used verse to put the Bible into the common vernacular. She was incredibly adroit, using > 120 different forms of styles of poetic structure to communicate what she wanted to say – and she was a close friend of William Shakespeare!  Here is an intriguing article about Mary Sidney and gives a sample of her verse, based on the 52nd psalm.  This is the kind of poetry which I aspire to write.  Enjoy.

Categories: Biography, Poetry

Toilet Roll (a French ballade)

With all the recent panic occurring over the virus from China, I thought a poem about it was due.  It is in the form of a French ballade.  May you enjoy it as you read it aloud.

 

‘Toilet Rollby Felix Sennitt (March 2020)

 

In shopping aisles the seagulls flock,

And food is snatched from off the racks.

How can the workers line the stock

Calmly when customers attack,

Who strike with trolleys front and back?

The trolley zombies seek control

Desperate to grasp some hope they lack

With reams of patterned, toilet roll.

 

They dream of pictures on Tik Tok,

Of owning homes, and wealth unmatched.

Yet dread and stress of hollow blocks

Build inside hearts as fear attracts

Men of reason in roaming packs.

Can bags of pasta fill the mould

Within for love?  Can hope be stacked

With reams of patterned, toilet roll?

 

So grab your beef and bacon hock

And bank your life on flour packs.

The virus may pass by and knock

So gulp that food your stomach lacks,

And top it up with salty snacks. 

One day the panic will get old.

‘Till then your future stands upstacked

With reams of patterned, toilet roll.

 

Envoi

Princes and presidents through cracks,

With young and female, warm and cold,

May fall when life jumps off the tracks

With reams of patterned, toilet roll.

Categories: Ballade (French form), Current Affairs, News

How Are You, Dear? (original rubai)

With my wife being South Korean, I have a weight on my soul concerning the sad fate of the 25 million souls imprisoned in the gulag that is North Korea.  Lately I have encountered a number of documentaries about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea’s formal title), including the recent visit there by British television personality, Michael Palin.  Having recently watched the video about his visit as well as reading the accompanying book, which examines what happened behind-the-scenes when he was there, my interest in the Hermit Kingdom has been renewed.

As a result of this, I decided to write a poem addressed to the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jeong-Eun.  It is invective and pugnacious, but it is also what I would say to him if I were standing in his presence and gazing into his eyes.  I’d probably be executed for it or sentenced to a death camp, but oh well.    

So here is my verse to Kim Jeong-Eun!  I have named it “How Are You, Dear?” since the DPRK refers to its leaders as Dear Leader or Dear General.  In stanzas 1 and 2, I refer to the fact that every morning at 6am in North Korea, background music named “Where are you, Dear Leader?” is played in order to put their citizens into a patriotic mood, and to thereby motivate them to work hard for their leader.

Stanza 3 refers to the Ryugyeong Hotel.  Shaped like a rocket, this edifice is the tallest and most glamorous of all the buildings in North Korea’s capital, but has oddly remained unoccupied ever since it was first built in 1987.  According to the Guinness World Book of Records, it is the Tallest Unoccupied Building in the world.   Stanza 5 refers to juche which is the official ideology of North Korea; ironically, it means ‘self-sufficiency’ in Korean and has a tower built to it in the capital city.   

For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, you can see the reference to Psalm 2 at the end of the poem. I dedicate this verse to the millions of martyred and enslaved Christians in the DPRK, as well as others enslaved for having the temerity to stand against the injustice of the Kim autocracy.  May you enjoy this verse as you read it aloud.

 

How Are You, Dear? – by Felix Sennitt (March 2020)

 

Each morn you keep the revolution fresh

Inside the souls imprisoned by your mesh;

You’ve gardens kept pristine for Pyeong Yang’s show

Of grinning mania on human flesh.

 

The background music fetes the leader dear

Whose worship’s grounded on arrest and fear.

Where are you, dear leader?  They pine for you,

Your starving masses ground down through the years.

 

The Ryugyeong Hotel sits like your rockets

Of hope unfulfilled and empty pockets.

While we gaze at self on our lonely phones

Your folk revere through their hungry sockets.

 

But leader, do they love you in their hearts,

Through the numerous propaganda arts

Bedecking every farm, corner, and house?

Perhaps they only really love you in part.

 

How do the crème-de-la-crème fill their days?

With the self-sufficient thoughts of juche

They may not survive when the bombs do fall.

They may strike when Kim Jeong-Eun is away.

 

Self-determination you teach the crowd

Yet you decide all which they can do.  Proud?

Proud are you of all that you have achieved?

It is so easy to bark at them. Loud.

 

Across your mountainous, picturesque land

There are busts of grandad and your old man. 

Where do you fit in this revolution?

You will need to help the world understand.

 

The Christian souls whom you crush in prison

Prove your knife is blunt: their Christ is risen.

No force of yours can take their higher hope.

One day God will remove your position. 

 

Fear cracks the bowl which holds its weakened frame

And in an instant yours will snap the same.

Hold on leader to all which you hold dear

Or kiss the One who bears God’s precious name.

Categories: North Korea

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