April is National Poetry Month
Recently, in one of my writing groups, someone issued a bit of a challenge. We were asked to consider the influence of a poet who has had a lasting effect on us?
The question is:
What poem inspired me?
I thought about it for some time. How can I even begin to single out one? I have been thinking about this for awhile, since the beginning of National Poetry Month. I would think of one poet, or one poem, and would say to myself, “this one is it!” But something was not quite right, so I would continue to contemplate the many writers I have loved over the years. I taught a wide assortment of poetry courses over my years as an English Professor – how to choose which one is the most influential to me? What poet brought me the core values I have embraced for my entire lifetime? What poetry answered the questions of life and death, and gave me a world view that is lasting beyond the trends and fashions of the changing times?
Was it in my own college years that I found that special one? Robert Bly took me on journeys to ancient times, as we walked together through snowy fields; I thrilled to the language of the 16th century poets and wrote papers on romance and death through the eyes of John Donne.
I looked back to my high school years – the Beats were living and breathing inside my thoughts and actions. I still love them, and I learned so much about life from them – things that still thrill me today as I look back.
No, move back further – what about the poetry of grade school years? Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees.” He gave me a life-long appreciation of nature and the universe and my place in it. And, the wonderful stories that were read to me by Mrs. Mathews, in her story time breaks at the North Star School.
My summertime reading – came to me. My mother would take me to the local public library where I would collect an arm full of books to bring home. Oh, the smell of them! The feel of them in my hands! Heaven on earth. Just me and a book, on the old front porch – reading through the summer afternoons there on the glider. Walter Farley and Louisa May Alcott –
took me to a world of wonder and delight. I cried along with the tragedies of “Black Beauty” and I walked along with the children and had tea parties “Under the Lilacs” of Louisa May Alcott’s imagination.
Authors and books stay with us forever. In the final quarter of my life, they are still there, alive and thrilling. My memories abound with the people, places, and life lessons I have learned from all those writers and poets.
Finally, last night, in a conversation with another writer it came to me – in an instant, I knew for sure the one key source of my own writing, from a very early age.
My source is an ancient one –
the Psalms of the Bible.
was my earliest source of creative writing, and I would always connect poetry with singing.
I would have heard them read in church from the time before I could speak. The various Psalms have been at the core of my life.
When my younger brother was dying on New Year’s Eve our entire family was there surrounding him in his home as he lay unconscious. My brother departed from this world at dawn on the first day of 2007. We said the 23rd Psalm to him while he was in his final minutes that night.
Three months later, my sister, youngest brother and I were tending to our Mother as she was beginning her final journey to the next world, I sat beside her with my Bible and I began to read her a number of Psalms because I knew those words would bring her comfort and peace. I sang to her, and I read to her that afternoon.
Last year, once again, I was with my Aunt Bettie, in a hospice, watching over her and holding her as she was getting ready to leave this world. Again, it was the songs of faith, and the Psalms that I shared with her. This time, my sister Patti was there with me again, as she had been the other two times. My two granddaughter’s were there, and our little 3 year old great-granddaughter was there as she gently slipped away.
For several years, I had been writing my own personal “Meditations on the Psalms.” It was a way of worship for me. I would read a Psalm and then keep it in my heart during the day. Throughout the day, I would jot down notes, little meditations, on that Psalm. Many of the Meditations were published by a gallery in New York. They appeared in the gallery newsletters over several months. I had not thought about them for quite awhile, until I began working on my writing archives and came across them once again.
Below is one of my “Meditations.”
The link below will take you to a recording of the original source if you want to compare my meditation with the original that inspired me one day in 1999.
You can listen to this Psalm:
“An Interpretation on Psalm 138”
by Lynda McKinney Lambert
I am standing here, Lord –
my heart full of praises for you.
I am sometimes aware
that the angels of heaven
surround me as I sing.
In my imagination,
I stand against a gentle breeze-
still on the mountain top,
looking at your Holy Temple.
The sun warms my face.
How could I refrain
from singing today
as I think about your faithfulness,
and the promises you keep?
Your trust is guaranteed.
You know there’s been days
when I’ve been weak –
my condition has been shameful
Yet, you respond to me
with encouragement and new dreams.
Wouldn’t every person in this world
like to hear your voice today?
Surely they would give you thanks
because you know them personally.
They will see that you are great.
Through the greatest dangers
we have come hand in hand.
You cleared the way before us
and quietly rescued me.
Is it because you have plans for me?
The vitality of life passes before
the presence of your glance.
Let this day develop as you say
and for only one reason –
I am your creation!
Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 1999. All Rights Reserved.