When Wallace Stevens said that ‘the poet is the priest of the invisible’, perhaps he meant that the poet’s job is to tend to the unknown, the intangible and even transcendental elements of human existence. Poetry, like prayer, acknowledges mystery. Both can contain expressions of reverence, gratitude, possibility and doubt.
So, in an increasingly secular world, can poetry do the work of prayer?
David Tacey, Kevin Brophy and Cate Kennedy believe it’s an idea worth exploring. All three contributed to Prayers for a Secular World: Australian poems for our time, an anthology that acknowledges the human impulse to pray despite a recession of religion. These are poems that aim to offer comfort and salvation in trying times – and perhaps inspire hope, wonder and epiphany at others.
What power does poetry have to nourish, inspire and soothe us in the 21st century … and what does ‘prayer’ mean exactly, anyway? Join us for a discussion of the spiritual potential of verse. Hosted by Leah Kaminsky.
Leah Kaminsky, physician and award-winning writer, is Poetry & Fiction Editor at the Medical Journal of Australia. Her debut novel is The Waiting Room won the Voss Literary Prize for the best novel of 2016. We’re all Going to Die has been described as ‘a joyful book about death’. She edited Writer MD and co-authored Cracking the Code. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Professor David Tacey is an independent scholar and writer who lives in Melbourne. He is the author of 14 books on literature, spirituality and psychology, including Beyond Literal Belief and The Spirituality Revolution.
Kevin Brophy has had fourteen books of poetry, fiction and critical and personal essays published. His latest book is This is what Gives Us Time (Gloria SMH), a collection of poems written while poet-in-residence at the B R Whiting Library in Rome during 2015. In 2009 he was awarded the Calibre prize for an outstanding essay. He teaches creative writing at the University of Melbourne.
Cate Kennedy is the author of the highly acclaimed novel The World Beneath, which won the People’s Choice Award in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards in 2010. She is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has been published widely.
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