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Pilgrims circle the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia Source: https://m.favim.com/image/3052801/

Welcome to tonight’s Poetics prompt with your host, Amaya Engleking. Well, ‘guide’ may be more accurate as we’ll be going on pilgrimage. After coming across this quote about the Paris-based, Arab poet, Adonis, and how he views the Holy Land, I have been thinking about the idea of holy places as prescribed by humans.

“[Adonis] quotes a prophetic Hadith that says, ‘Whoever wants to see a spot of heaven, let him gaze at al-Quds (Jerusalem),’ but his Jerusalem is “a divine cage,” a wasteland of barbed wire and demolished homes, where “corpses and severed limbs” lie strewn atop the rubble. The poem isn’t a lament for a lost paradise but an indictment of the idea that some places on earth are more holy than others.” (Bold emphasis is mine. From article, ‘Hearing Voices’ by Robyn Creswell, The New Yorker, Dec. 18 &. 25, 2017)

So I want to ask you to explore the same questions:

– The statement in bold above: Are some places on earth more holy than others? What makes them so?
– Do you believe certain sites can be destinations to reach the divine?
– Have you ever gone on a pilgrimage yourself? If so, did you experience what you would consider sacred? Was the journey necessary?
– Do you have your own personal place of worship or contemplation, such as a cemetery or a particular tree, that only you would consider holy?

Reflect on these questions and write a poem in whichever form you prefer based on their answers. Feel free to adopt an ironic tone if you find the notion of holy places ridiculous. You may also choose to write your poem in the third-person, giving a narrative about the pilgrim’s journey, for example. Just keep to the theme of holy places. Here’s an inspirational poem.

from, THE PILGRIM by Sophie Jewett:

Pilgrim, pass, since it must be;
Take thy staff, and have thy will;
Prayer and love shall follow thee;
I will watch thee o’er the hill.
What thy fortune God doth know;
By what paths thy feet must go.
Far and dim the distance lies,
Yet my spirit prophesies:
Not in vigil lone and late,
Bowed upon the tropic sand,
But within the city gate,
In the struggle of the street,
Suddenly thine eyes shall meet
His whose look is Holy Land.

Smiled the pilgrim, sad and sage:
Long must be my pilgrimage.

Source: Poetry Foundation

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