Tonight’s episode of Salt + Light’s English book show, Word for Word (airing at 8 p.m. and midnight ET, with repeats Saturday at 9:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. ET) focuses on journeying and includes host Gillian Kantor’s interview with the authors of the fantasy novel The Stoneholding. The Writer’s Block segment features poet Father Pier Giorgio Di Cicco. Some of you may recognize Father Giorgio as a contributor to the Toronto Star, the Catholic Register, author of 18 collections of poetry and poet laureate for the City of Toronto.
Myself and cameraman extraordinaire Wally Tello recently had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with Father Giorgio at his residence north of Toronto. The very hospitable and gentle priest-poet had many wonderful things to say regarding poetry, art, and cities (something he has a passion for as Toronto’s poet laureate).
I could blog several entries about the different things we discussed, and maybe I will in the future, but for now I wanted to focus on one thing: inspiration.
We had been discussing the idea that poetry is more than just words on a page, that our lives are poems co-authored with God. Father Giorgio cited all sorts of examples of poetry: running into a friend on the street, saying a prayer, experiencing a joyful event with one’s family… we are constantly writing poetry!
Thinking of the more formal poem, I asked him “What inspires you?” He paused a moment to collect his thoughts, and like the green interviewer I am, I quickly added “When you look out on a day like this is there something specific that you see about the way the cone hangs on the evergreen…”
“But the cone doesn’t inspire me.” Father Giorgio interjected, “God is in the cone. God is in everything. I’m a God hunter. I mean God hunts me, but I’m a God hunter. I look for meaning all the time.” He went on to explain that he has worked all his life to be attuned to God’s voice: a voice that “draws him to greater prayer” and “seeking union” with God.
“I look at things, I look at situations and I hear God’s voice in those things saying ‘I am here, I made this too. I am making this. Consecrate it. Bless it. Bless it by writing about it, by loving it, by expressing it to someone, by sharing it with someone. Bless it.’” Father Giorgio continues, “And by blessing things in art or in relationships you are giving witness to God. You’re revealing the ‘Godness’ in things and therein is their beauty.”
Now the good Father is not talking about pantheism. He’s talking about recognizing God’s beauty in everything around us. It’s not the things of the world but God in the things, “in the phenomenon,” of the world that inspires him.
And this is reflected in Father Giorgio’s poetry too (his latest work is The Visible World, published last year by Mansfield Press). Poem after poem points to something seemingly ordinary while painting the extraordinary in it; its beauty, its holiness, its relationship to God.
As Father Giorgio shared “Everything speaks of God and God tries to speak in it.”
Let us now listen.
And let us respond.