Writing and the Sacred – a reflection by Clive Donovan


How are writing and the sacred connected? 

As a poet I feel lucky and blessed if a poem, whose progress in detail has not been necessarily planned, ends up touching a new aspect of the sacred for me, the first reader, to view, to contemplate and to enjoy. This might involve a demonstration of the plight and struggle and contradictions involved in the human condition. Even if the poem is about a tree or the sea it will still, in some way, incorporate the feelings or reactions of the human observer. 

A major part of the poet’s job, as I see it, is to uncover the divine in the human world – to divine the sacred in that incredible mixture that constitutes this conscious animal we call man. So the poem may make points about fortitude, resilience, sacrifice, redemption, empathy, compassion and also may invite discernment of the contrast of the dark shadows – for how does good become corrupted and transform to evil? The list is endless really and will vary according to the individual expressive genius of the poet, who is only a man or woman after all, not special, except insofar as they have chosen this particular wonderful art form to articulate the truest and deepest parts of themselves that they have the skill or grace to access.

And if the work is to attain any sort of interesting meaning or psychological depth, one could argue that it must touch upon the sacred. And often, marvellously, close reading by an intelligent other will find some worthy, perhaps allegorical, insight that even the poet did not fully realize.

But, as for me, I have discovered something of myself concerning those fallow periods when I am not writing: variously and famously described as ‘writers block’, ‘resting’, or a ‘lack of inspiration’ and suffered by most writers, I believe, as a state of frustration. 

I find I am at my most prolific when I am troubled, say, in a relationship, or saddened at its ending. But when I am content and happy, maybe a few stanzas emerge about a bird singing in a sunbeam and that’s it.

So here’s the thing: When am I most in touch with the divine? When I am writing [which is itself a struggle – though ultimately addictive and satisfying] or when at peace, empty, not writing, simply enjoying life and doing those things that poets write about?

I deposit that conundrum for you to wrestle with.

Clive Donovan
 devotes himself full-time to poetry and has published in a wide variety of magazines including Agenda, Amethyst Review, Fenland Poetry Journal, Neon Lit. Journal, Prole, Sentinel Lit. Quarterly and Stand. He lives in Totnes, Devon, U.K. by the River Dart. His debut collection will be published by Leaf by Leaf in November 2021. 

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