In the beginning...

Okay, I've put this off long enough. Time for this Luddite to blog.  Since this is my first entry, I'd like to go back to the "beginning," to share something about how poetry is a lot like grace: it's more about being grasped than grasping, like there's a Great Hand that holds the life of all and offers it up through this one life I have to live in love to the world. When I surrender to writing poetry, I'm consenting to become both gifted and giver.  I'm handed some unknown gift from God, and, in turn, I offer this newly discovered gift to the world through the sacrament of language.  In the beginning, was the Word--and the Great Hand of God, holding and beholding it all.


So, the beginning.  My love for poetry goes way back. Sitting in a Contemporary Poetry class as a junior at Arkansas State University, I read Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Pound at Spoleto" and I was handed, strangely enough, my Delta home again: the sky split blue above me, the flat black fields rose up with glorious elevation, and the weathered, largely vacant Delta towns shone full on. Hard to believe, I know.


So now you know that poetry for me involves hands and home. Much of it hearkens back, or issues forth, from the Delta where far too many people, like my sharecropper grandparents, are still viewed mostly and merely as work units, as "hands."  So everything I write comes indentured.  I'm indebted to all those who've cared enough about me to refuse the temptation to "keep their hands to themselves," who've reached out in love to help me along.


Lastly, to hands and home let's add in heart, as in our Center, the deathless love where we are most rooted and vital.  This close place, so close that it often passes unacknowledged and unheard, is what I seek to honor.  I hope to start here and end here.  When I began taking poetry seriously as a writer, about seven or so years ago, I noticed that any traction my poems gained in terms of publishing always flowed concentrically, from the heart out into the world. My first poem was published by Desert Call, a journal published by Nada, a Carmelite monastery in Colorado that remains my spiritual home.  Two other poems were soon published, "Peter Wept" by the Christian Century, a journal that I subscribed to throughout my 30 years as a pastor, and a Delta poem titled "Secondhand Smoke" by the Oxford American, the finest Southern literary magazine I've found.


Maybe the best example I have of honoring the heart comes from my friendship with Alex Davis. Some years ago, as a senior music student at the University of South Carolina, Alex came to me in search of a poem, something he could put to music for his senior project.  (I should say that my friendship with Alex goes way back.  I was his pastor when he and my son were just toddlers.  We remain friends; he and my son remain best friends.) What emerged from all this is a beautiful choral rendition of my poem "Peter Wept."  When it premiered in April of 2010, one member of the choir singing her heart out that day was a young woman named Kathleen, who had just begun dating my son.  This July they will be wed in a beautiful valley just outside of Asheville, NC.

God's Great Hand, home, heart--poetry, whatever it is, for me, is made from such as these.

Write a comment

Comments: 13
  • #1

    Andrea Missey (Wednesday, 08 April 2015 19:03)

    Your thoughts and surrender bring to mind Paul's words to the Corinthians about being earthen vessels.

  • #2

    terryproffitt (Wednesday, 08 April 2015 20:04)

    Thank you for reading this, Andrea. Incarnation keeps capturing my imagination, as does your perceptive comment. Hoping all is well with you in your healing from one surgery and the anticipation of the next. Let's do lunch when you have time.

  • #3

    Karla Breeding Trammell (Wednesday, 08 April 2015 20:17)

    So glad you are doing this, Terry!

  • #4

    terryproffitt (Wednesday, 08 April 2015 22:10)

    Thanks, Karla. I hope it speaks to you! And thank you for taking the time to read it.

  • #5

    Jeff Bryant (Thursday, 09 April 2015 10:49)

    The internet just got a little smarter, more introspective, more civil, and more contemplative. Thank you for deciding to share with us.

  • #6

    terryproffitt (Thursday, 09 April 2015 12:37)

    Jeff, you are such an encourager, always have been. Thank you.

  • #7

    Kathy Voelker (Saturday, 11 April 2015 06:05)

    Congratulations, Terry, on your launch! You always astonish me. I wouldn't suggest you quit while you are ahead, but really, Alex's composition of your poem, the news about Zak's wedding AND your beautiful riff on poetry all in your first entry! Hard to beat all that. I know you are up to it, but you may have to give up some Facebook time.

  • #8

    terryproffitt (Saturday, 11 April 2015 07:37)

    Will do, Kathy. I'll focus in, be disciplined, blog, run my miles, pray, meditate, write poetry, feed the chickens, cats, doves and Maya the Wonder Dog, eat right, floss, and, oh yeah, spend less time on Facebook (except to chronicle Brother Vinny's search for Jesus). Seriously, your comments are all so kind and encouraging. Thank you for taking the time to read one more blog! Call and let's catch up!

  • #9

    Em Moore (Friday, 17 April 2015 20:01)

    Still trying to articulate all that God impressed on me from your first blog. God is still speaking through it. I still plan to explore it when I finish processing. Very inspired!

  • #10

    Belden Lane (Friday, 17 April 2015 20:25)

    "Sometimes we find ourselves at our worst, breaking all that’s best....but God always ends up with the last word." I love it. You got something good going here, Minchow-Proffitt!!! Keep it up. Thanks so much.

  • #11

    Nathan McKie (Saturday, 18 April 2015 08:33)

    Our last and hopefully final move on this earth took its toll on some items that fit in the category of yours. The ones we inherited are hardest to part with, although we had to. We have the memories, of course, but they are more easily evoked by seeing the items. Fortunately, our journeys have added things that God speaks to us through. With those we can evoke other memories without having so much stuff!

  • #12

    Terry Minchow-Proffitt (Sunday, 19 April 2015 18:15)

    Belden, I'm so grateful for your encouraging words, but mostly for our life-giving friendship!

  • #13

    Terry Minchow-Proffitt (Sunday, 19 April 2015 18:17)

    Nathan, this last move has been very challenging on you and Carolyn, and I'm so glad that you two have been so open with me about it. I love our occasional visits and wish you all the best as you continue to make a home for yourselves on that beautiful hill.