There are some things, he said, some things that you need to start thinking about as you prepare to go to seminary.
And he set out a few of them, which is one of the very best things he does, providing a simple and yet sturdy scaffold for the endless meanderings of my cluttered and disorderly thought processes.
The last one is, What are you going to read? What are you going to take with you? In a year filled with church history and Biblical texts and an ancient language that will prove troublesome for you, what are you going to read for yourself?
Poetry, I have finally realized. Poetry is what I am going to need. Maybe I will read the entire English and American canon of poetry over the next three years and carry it all into the pulpit with me when the time comes.
I went to the bookstore and looked at the paltry few shelves dedicated to poetry. Old friends whom I have not considered in years and years, Auden and Yeats and Williams and centuries of others. Old friends, Berryman and Plath, with whom I feel no affinity at the moment, but who had something to say to that college girl I once was. New names, Mary Oliver from my daughter's English teacher and Wendell Berry from my father and Billy Collins from this Jesuit, who has pushed novel after play after poem at me over the past few years.
Poetry it is. George Herbert and Emily Dickinson and I are going to seminary.