WRITING ON SACRED TOPICS – a reflection by John J. Brugaletta


When we go to bed, as we are drifting off to sleep, there is a time between our waking life and sleep. That period of dusk or twilight is similar to the way I feel when I am writing a poem. It’s a few minutes (or a few hours) when interruptions are not very welcome because they pull me out of that trance, that half-dream, half-waking experience. And if I’m not able to recapture the sweep of the poem soon, it will be lost.

If this sounds pretentious, I think it’s important for me to add that –after my wife, my son and my spiritual life—writing poetry is most important to me, as I would guess it is to many poets.

But this twilight period is identical with the mind-set of those who meditate. And if the meditator is at all religious, as I am, then the sacred will visit it, either at intervals or steadily.

It may have something to do with being in a state of mind that is between the conscious level and the unconscious, that rich and roiling sea within us. For me the portion of my best religious poems make up one-third of my writing. I wish it had been more, but one critic wished it had been less. I work with what I’m dealt.

Now to that other aspect of writing poems that evoke the sacred. What do we do with them? Hold readings I suppose, but the Coronavirus has squelched that option for the foreseeable future. Publish them? Many editors won’t have anything to do with sacred themes, though a few do, and among them is The Amethyst Review, for which I am grateful.

In my retirement however, I write a poem nearly every day, so I send some to the other few journals that publish poems of the sacred. But these editors are receiving so many submissions to read and sift through that response times grow longer every two or three years. It causes me to think of Yang Xiong, the Chinese poet who sent one of his poems down the Yangtze River. Maybe I’ll send some of mine out to sea in a bottle.


John J. Brugaletta has seven volumes of his poetry in print; the latest of these is Selected Poems (Future Cycle Press, 2019). He is a professor emeritus at California State University, Fullerton, and an ELCA Lutheran.

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