Captured by Verse By inSpire with Bob Mason

 Photo: Bob Mason
We asked Bob Mason several questions about his background and love for poetry.

inSpire - Bob, sometime ago I learned that you have a passion for poetry. When did you pick this up, and what inspires you to pursue writing it?

Mason - My first memories of actually thinking about poetry involved hating it. I don’t even remember why, but obviously something changed.

The first time I remember appreciating poetry was as a boy, reading the poetry of Elder Adlai Esteb in a book I had gotten at the ABC. Then I read Robert Frost. He managed to write poetry that rhymed but didn’t sound ‘rhymy.’ It had rhythm, but didn’t sound sing-song and trite. It was beautiful writing that happened to have the discipline of rhythm and rhyme built in — masterful, and so in touch with creation. That really captured me.

I came to enjoy writing poetry in Barbara Youngblood’s English 101 at PUC. I’ve been enjoying it ever since. It knits my love of language with my thinking, feeling self.

inSpire - You are a pastor now. Do you still find time to write poetry, and if so, what gets your creative juices flowing, and what are your poems typically about?

Mason - Many times it seems that the poetry finds me and pursues me until I take the time to coalesce it into words. The inspiration may come from some experience of beauty, be it in nature, in relation with my fellow humans or in relationship with God. Sometimes it may be in the form of a song, sometimes in rhythm and rhyme, and sometimes in free verse.

Poetry also emerges from questions I've been thinking about, struggles I'm engaged in, or some special way in which Divine hope has overtaken me.

I don't see any topical typicality in my poetry. That's why my poetry blog is called 'Variegations.'

inSpire - Is your poetry just for you and pretty much a private thing, or do you share it publicly like in church, or in other public forums?

Mason - Except for when I've written poetry for my wife, and raps and theme songs for youth ministries, I usually just write. Well, OK, I try to attend a local monthly poetry gathering in Arcata (Poets on the Plaza), and even though it's acceptable to read stuff from the files, I usually feel a compulsion to write something new. I really love hearing the amazing words and their order as they come from the hearts and minds of other poets, and I love contributing and experiencing the smiles and laughter that mean that somehow my words touched their souls.

I have written some poetry for special occasions, and on rare occasion have shared one in church.

I couldn't say for sure why I started putting my poetry out on a blog. I hope it doesn't stem from narcissism. I think I just wanted to turn some of my 'kids' loose and see if they could do some good, touch some hearts, and bring glory to God. I would also have to say that I hope for some feedback, some indication that there are others similarly touched by the things that have moved me in life.

To me, poetry is about experiencing resonance between my thoughts and my feelings and putting the results out to see if they can resonate with someone else's heart. Maybe that's why it sometimes has rhythm.

People need some way of sensing that someone else understands their feelings and experiences, whether it's an experience of beauty, a yearning for love, a longing for God, an unexpected experience of His presence, etc., etc., etc. For those who are so inclined, poetry can do that.

inSpire - I recently had someone imply to me that poetry is only for younger people — that it requires too much contemplation and energy which the older crowd aren’t willing to exert. What is your response to such an implication?

Mason - I'm 48, and I find that, for both reading and creating, the channels are best opened with the relaxing and unfreezing of the mind. Contemplation is the leisurely turning over of thoughts, impressions, and images in the mind, isn't it — allowing ourselves to really see and know a thing before letting it go.

If the older crowd is resistant to poetry, I would think it's more due to their investing energy and busy-ness in "more important" things. It's not that people have so much less energy; it's that the energy is so over invested. I think a huge portion of that investment just breeds more stress and is ultimately pointless. We have a God who (judging from the literary forms of the Bible) loves poetry and finds it important.

inSpire - Do you have any suggestions on how we can inspire more people to become interested in poetry writing it, reading it (privately and publicly) and sharing it with one another?

Mason - I think you just have to put it out where people can find it in tasty, bite-sized portions. Facebook can be a nice place to post the short and pithy. You're looking for that moment when someone notices and says, "That's exactly how I feel," or "I never really understood that until I saw it put that way." It might just make someone laugh, but on it goes from there. A desire to get more connected with others, whether by reading the fruit of "their" hearts or gaining the courage to express my own.

It sounds like we're pushing drugs. But this isn't merely about creating temporary good feelings; this is about connecting people with one another, with creation, and with God. Poetry connects, at least for the ones it connects. It may not be for everyone, but I am sure it is vital for some who don't even know they need it.

After that connection is made, a forum like inSpire could be a wonderful place to point the way to the bigger, better, longer, and more plentiful!

inSpire - Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. And whatever you do, keep writing those lines.

Visit Bob Mason online

This interview was conducted by Rich DuBose, Director of Pacific Union Conference Church Support Services and the inSpire project. All rights reserved © 2012 Click here for content usage information.