Collegeville, Part 2

In my last post I told you about my experience at the Collegeville writer’s workshop this summer. The Collegeville Institute has just released some pretty cool data from all of its workshop participants this summer (mine wasn’t the only workshop being offered). Go here to check out their nifty pie charts.  And hint: I’m the one percent.

Also, click here to see a photo of everyone in the Poetry, Prose, and Prayer workshop with me!

Anyway, I already mentioned that one of the “live” writing exercises we had to do at Collegeville was to write extemporaneously about our faith and our writing. I wanted to share what I wrote here on the blog. This is a raw first draft, and I might change a few lines if I were to revise it, but I think there is something so powerful and visceral about the first time words emerge from the writer. So here goes.

My Faith and My Writing

My writing gives me something meaningful when my faith runs out. Writing in general – other’s people’s writing and poetry – carry me when faith can’t. I think that poets often have a deeper sense of spirituality than some fervent Christians do, although I have been both, and I’m not sure I’ve reached what I’m aiming for. Do I even know what I’m aiming for? Maybe not. Writing feels like a much safer place than religion does sometimes. I’m allowed to say things in poems that might not go over well if I said them to some Christian friends. I wonder if the heart of the Christian faith has been diluted by all of our attempts to control and capture it. Writing feels like a birth, and re-birth, and re-birth. Could this be what Jesus meant when he said you must be born again? In those small moments when I can manage to still my ego and reach for true art, for the mysterious act of creating, am I born again? When I cut my own lines and re-work my words, am I born again? When I read a poem and feel something tugging at me, am I born again? I don’t know. Maybe this is the answer to both faith and writing: we don’t know the meaning, but eventually it will emerge for us. 


  1. Mary Van Denend says:

    Thanks for these reflections, Karissa. Keep asking the hard questions. I believe writing and faith are intimately connected, like lungs and breath. Some mystics think writing (any creative act, really) is another form of prayer. Collegeville was important for me too. Such an inspiring and safe place to be ourselves. Left you a comment yesterday but it didn’t appear. Hmm…

  2. Hmm…well “faith” is the biggest word in your cloud tag on this site, so if writing and poetry carried you when faith couldn’t, why does faith appear so often here?

    It reminds me of a story that John Wesley told in his journal:
    “Saturday, March 4.—I found my brother at Oxford, recovering from his pleurisy; and with him Peter Bohler; by whom, in the hand of the great God, I was, on Sunday, the fifth, clearly convinced of unbelief, of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved.

    Immediately it struck into my mind, “Leave off preaching. How can you preach to others, who have not faith yourself?” I asked Bohler whether he thought I should leave it off or not. He answered, “By no means.” I asked, “But what can I preach?” He said, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.”
    So perhaps that’s what you are doing. Writing about faith until you have faith!

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