Luci Shaw — A Poet for Life

When I first heard Luci Shaw described as “a poet sorting socks,” I was just coming into my own career as a sock-sorter.  Her poetry, harvested from the everyday of enjoying nature, relating to family and friends, and living the questions about her faith was soul-food in the midst of all the sorting out that came with this mothering life of mine.  I received Writing the River as a birthday gift the year my oldest son was born, and I mined it like a prospector, treasuring “Trace” during our family walks on the beach, smiling at the sight of tiny boy prints on Atlantic-smoothed stones.

Because you walk
on waterCapture
your footprints
are invisible.

We look in vain
for a wet mark
from the ball
of your foot
or even
a lick of

Dried salt
on the stone.

As our family grew, boy upon boy, and we began to homeschool, I found that a haiku about Queen Anne’s lace was just right for penmanship practice which would also complement a drawing in a nature notebook and so, surreptitiously, we made poetry a part of everyday life.

It lifts its lovely,
loose exactness — like fireworks,
outstarrings of God.

As my Luci Library grew, my holidays were enhanced by images of the incarnation and a kinship with Jesus’ mother that extended beyond her teenage identity to the middle-aged widow standing at the cross:  “for him to see me mended, I must see him torn.”  Every Good Friday, part of my mind finds a way back to “Judas, Peter” as I am reminded that the only thing that sorted their divergent outcomes, and the only reality that will bring Easter to my heart is “the grace to cry and wait.”

Luci’s journey through grief after the loss of her husband in 1986 (when she was only 57) was both gritty and genuine.  It also blossomed into her first work of prose:  God in the Dark.  For several years it sat on my nightstand, re-visited at least annually, because I needed the reassurance of her pendulum-swing between eloquent expressions of faith and mournful seasons of despair.

With decades of written data to support my conclusion, I draw a straight line between Luci’s depth of expression and her curiosity, her honesty, and her willingness to push against and palpate faith, beauty, and quirky human nature.  Her words on paper have been a silhouette of her hiking-boots-on-the-ground living.  Years of spiritual journaling found their way into Life Path, a guide to personal growth through journaling.  Her “following hard after God” is the spirit behind Water My Soul, which, rich in metaphor, is a book about “cultivating the interior life” and reveals Luci’s photographer’s eye in its delightful descriptions of sunlight, pumpkins, ripe berries and tilling the soul’s garden.  Luci’s readers are enriched by her friendships of the heart.  A game of “postcard tag” with a fellow poet shines its way into What the Light Was Like, and decades of prayer and faith-building with Madeleine L’Engle birthed A Prayer Book for Spiritual Friends. 

Then there was the day that Luci Shaw went bungee jumping in New Zealand — in her seventies!  While the video has apparently vanished from the internet,  the manner of living that inspired the jump has breathed itself into The Crime of Living Cautiously.  Luci writes with humor and courage about the aging process.  Adventure of Ascent is a God-struck memoir that displays the brave and positive voice which has followed Luci into her ninth decade.  Capture

As for me, I’m still sorting socks, but once in a while I write a poem these days.  The idea that I should, the impression that I must, and the courage to share my words have been fed by my reading of Luci Shaw’s words.  I love the agony of wringing out the next word like condensed fog from an over-night clothesline and the triumph of “having written,”  which, in the words of Dorothy Sayers, feels like “God on the seventh day.”  I love the boldness of words that change me even more than they change my readers and the fine shades of meaning that come with a slightly better adjective.  In her career of writing, publishing, and editing, Luci Shaw has made contagious her pleasure in language and her enjoyment of God.

“This idea is burning in my own mind
Here, let me light a wick in you.”

Consider it done, Luci.

Linking up today with The Loft

 

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Published by

Michele Morin

I am a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. I have been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and our four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Nonetheless, two teens still remain at home, and along with an incorrigible St. Bernard, we laugh, make messes, clean them up, and then start all over again. I love hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop me in my tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. I lament biblical illiteracy and advocate for the prudent use of "little minutes." I blog at Living Our Days because "the way I live my days will be, after all, the way I live my life." You can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

31 thoughts on “Luci Shaw — A Poet for Life”

  1. In 1959, my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. McMillan, introduced me to the power of poetry. She’d walk slowly into the classroom reciting verse to herself as we were settling into our seats, just returned from recess,. Well, obviously it was to us but the way she was immersed it was as though we were not there. Just her and the poem. It was a clever ploy because it silenced us instantly. One day she came in reciting Little Boy Blue. I don’t recall what day it was or the hour but then and there I can say I knew I’d never get over poetry.

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  2. I think homeschool is the salvation of modern education. For too many reasons but specifically it grieves me that school curriculums barely touch poetry study along with abandoning cursive because they have no idea what they have lost and the future cost.

    In 1975 My oldest daughter’s fourth grade year began in a new experimental school so she was tested for placement. At the start of the assessment interview the teacher said, “First of all I have to tell you that I’ve never had a beginning fourth grader know what a haiku is until your daughter.”

    I nodded and told her that we had composed haikus for our summer project. Honestly I thought that was perfectly normal. Doesn’t everyone? I was so naive I didn’t understand the incredulous look on that teacher’s face. Time proves the worth of all things and I’ve carried on the tradition with my grandchildren. I’ve come to understand there is a real science behind building neuron paths through poetry study and composition. It’s quite complex but the simple result is the development of logical thought processing. It’s similar to the conclusion that children who learn to read and play music are good in math.

    Sorry I didn’t mean to turn this into a treatise. Just passionate about this topic. 🙂

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  3. What a beautifully written review and tribute to an extraordinary woman and poet. I have always loved Queen Anne’s Lace, and her haiku captures it perfectly! Thanks so much for the wonderful post and for your lovely comment on Saved by Grace.
    God bless,
    Laurie

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  4. I’m glad you found the #SmallWonder link-up Michele. I was just thinking this morning about a brief poem by Luci Shaw about how planting seeds changes her opinion of rain. I didn’t realize she had so many books, I’m going to need to keep that in mind the next time I’m at the library!

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  5. Thank you for sharing these lovely words with us at Grace & Truth! I will certainly be checking out this author in the future. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My goodness, Michele, I can’t believe I’d never heard of Luci or her books. I’m definitely going to be finding something of hers and reading it as soon as possible! I’m not sure which I should choose first … perhaps Life Path because I’m interested in journaling?

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    1. Oh, you are in for a real treat no matter what you start with. If you’re on Facebook, I just shared one of her poems that had been “published” in the Behemoth: “What Secret Purple Wisdom.”

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  7. Michele, I tried finding you on Facebook, but found another Michele Morin spelled exactly the same way … Do you have a link to your Facebook?

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  8. What a lovely post! I’ve never heard of Luci Shaw, but then again, I’m not a regular reader of poetry. It sounds like she wrote/writes from a lifetime of experiences that build trust. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Michele. Thank you for linking up at The Loft today!

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  9. Michele, thanks for sharing this post!! I have not heard of this poet, but then again, poetry has not been a “go-to” in my reading library… until now. I will definitely add poetry to my collection of favorites… beginning with Luci Shaw. Best Regards

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