"Earth Your Dancing Place"

I think I have mentioned before that poetry is not my favorite literary genre.  Sure, there are certain poems and poets I love [Gerard Manley Hopkins and Mary Oliver are at the very top of my list], but I’m pretty conventional in my tastes, and I don’t have the sophisticated tools I would need to analyze and interpret much of contemporary poetry–lots of it just strikes me as pedestrian and incoherent.

However, I would never give up on poetry altogether, because, at its best, poetry uses vivid, compelling images to reveal flashes of a truth that can never be seen or understood directly, completely, but only experienced in moments and in bits.  But, and here’s the key–these moments and bits, though brief and incomplete, penetrate to the core and are transformative:  they invite you into a different world, into a different way of being, and give you fresh eyes and a new heart.  And they do it as much as by what they don’t say as by what they say:  they use suggestion and hints, whispers–so they aren’t didactic or pedantic.  They invite you to come closer, slow down, and unfold.

The poem that prompted this post is titled “Earth Your Dancing Place,” by May Swenson.  Here is the last stanza:

“Take the earth for your own large room
and the floor of the earth
carpeted with sunlight
and hung round with silver wind
for your dancing place.”

What I love here, of course, is the image of the earth as a carpeted, sunlit, breezy dance floor, where one’s proper mode of being is rhythmic, spontaneous, liberated and joyous, and where all of creation is one’s partner.  What a way to view the world!

Theologically, this invites me into a posture not only of joy and freedom, but also gratitude and loving relationship–not only with God but with all God has made.  And, if we think about at least one form of God’s artistry as dance [and even more, God’s very being as dancing, dynamic partnership–this is the perichoresis of the divine persons in communion], then when we see ourselves as cosmic dancers we can envision ourselves embodying the imago Dei in fresh, creative ways.  That’s a space I would like very much to inhabit.  

[The picture is from a performance of traditional Indian dance, taken in Hyderabad, India, March, 2012.]

One thought on “"Earth Your Dancing Place"

  1. How poignant. Today I have been grieving, celebrating, and remembering a friend and colleague who died late last night after enduring a long battle with cancer. She was one of those people, as they say, who lived life to the fullest. In the last few days, my vision was of her dancing with the Spirit – relaxed and joyful – before leaving earthly surroundings and ascending with the Spirit. The portion of the poem you quote paints the picture so well. And then your comment, “Theologically, this invites me into a posture not only of joy and freedom, but also gratitude and loving relationship – not only with God but with all God has made.” I believe this is how she lived her life and then glided away. Also, a place where I would like to be. Thank you


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