Poetry and the OT

I am wrestling with Richard Foster’s new book, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer. The wrestling has to do with trying to get my mind wrapped around his practice of prayer.  I have limited myself to reading only a chapter a day so as to give myself time to mull over his practice.  I am in chapter seven and I have not been able to pin him yet.

But he did offer some insight concerning the benefits of poetry.  While he is speaking about the use of poetry in settling the mind (107), his insights into the “mechanics” of poetry are helpful for those who study OT poetry.

Foster offers three benefits of reading poetry:

“Poetry startles us with its economy of words and beauty of language…. Words, carefully chosen…have a way of slowing us down and focusing our attention on essential matters” (107).  If one wants to understand the poetry of the OT it must be read slowly and thoughtfully.  Not much is gained by racing through a psalm.

“If you are anything like me, you simply do not understand what the poet is saying on the first read. This forces us to stop and go back and read the words again. And again” (Ibid.).  Should probably read this statement again. J

“The mind is often captured by the metaphor of a poem” (Ibid.). When a poet employs a metaphor the reader is forced to understand how two very different “things” are in someway in the poet’s mind similar.   This necessitates a slow, deliberate rereading and a pondering of this relationship. For instance see Ps 73: 22

So while I have been stymied in his practice of meditative prayer, I will meditate on his insights on poetry.


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