This three-part blog series presents a joint contribution from one of our TheoArtistry partnerships: Ewan Bowlby, Emily Fleming, and Hannah Palmatary. These reflections have emerged from their recent immersive performance of original poetry and musical compositions, entitled “Spirituality in Creativity: A TheoArtistry Collaboration.”
Meditating on spirituality and the body in the poetic form has proven to be quite multifaceted. Not only is the content of the poem reflective of this meditation, but the process of writing a poem for me entails a reliance on our sensuous, bodily experiences in the world alongside something not as tangible, something I can only describe as my own spiritual disposition. I’ve often tried to describe and define how poems come to me; the arrival of poetry in my mind comes from the coupling of an experience in the world—say observing a leaf fall from a tree, or a seagull lean into the wind before flight—with a nearly unconscious transformation of the moment into unique language. When attempting to contemplate this transformation of discrete moments into poetry, I’ve learned I cannot apply strict, objective terms to the process. Simply put, I feel both compelled by something outside of myself and something indescribable within myself from which the poetic work arises.
The second wonderful quality of poetry for me is its reception. To read or hear a poem is a sensuous experience which is both familiar and strange. The poem can affect the reader in emotional and physical ways. I am often reminded of a sense of levity or warmth that I feel after reading a Mary Oliver poem, or the way alliteration or particularly sticky word pairings feel in my mouth when I read a poem aloud. The wonder of a poem is that it plays on both the familiar (a moment that one has experienced or a philosophical quandary common to humanity) and the new (particularly exciting, sensual uses of language that feel foreign to us). Experiencing poetry thereby brings us into ourselves while simultaneously distancing us from what we know. By doing so, poetry is able to reawaken our senses, reinspire us to connect with the human faculties of language, and reunite us in new ways with our existence on earth. The power of poetry has always been to combine the strange, spiritual qualities of life with the ability to interact with the reader on a personal, embodied level.
Both the making of poetry and the reception of it that I have experienced and hope to propagate through this TheoArtistry initiative have proven to be metanarratives on the content of our project, which seeks to unconventionally explore the body and spirituality. The poets and artists of the world have long been endeavouring to create in such a space and share such encounters with others, and I am excited to bring my own work in its many levels—making, content, and reception—into the space of the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts.
Hannah Palmatary is pursuing an MLitt in Theology, Imagination and the Arts from the University of St Andrews. Her research interests include ontological reflections on art to show how art enhances, alters, and reveals existence to humanity. As an artist, Hannah is working on a collection of poetry out of her TheoArtistry collaboration.