Neoscholastic philosopher Jacques Maritain stresses that art comes from an internalized habit of work and reflection. The artist is a maker of art objects, e.g. the poet makes poetry. The subjectivity, the imagination, and the act of confession in the true artist are all subsumed to the act of making the beautiful work. Much like people as moral beings learn a kind of ethical prudence, an inner sense of what a given situation calls for, so artists over time develop certain habits of seeing and working. A poet, for example, has to put in the time and work with language, metaphor, observation, etc. in order to develop a poetic craft. The poet’s subjectivity is meant to serve the work and not the reverse. Maritain stresses that the Christian who would make art should focus on the task at hand:

If you want to make a Christian work, then be Christian and simply try to make a beautiful work, into which your heart will pass; do not try to "make Christian." [. . .] The entire soul of the artist reaches and rules his work, but it must reach and rule it only through the artistic habitus. Art tolerates no division here. It will not allow any foreign element, juxtaposing itself to it, to mingle, in the production of the work, its regulation with art’s own. Tame it, and it will do all that you want it to do. Use violence, and it will accomplish nothing. (66-67)

The poet can only make what she has learned over time to practice. Poetry has its own demands, concerns, and rules. These are only right and natural and should be respected. Indeed, trying to bypass these in the name of religion is only bound to failure. Jellema, likewise, would warn us against using the label "Christian poet" too lightly: "It invites a poet who is a Christian into a frame of mind in which, proud of his humility, he can knock the tough commitment to art as merely arty, shrug off the world’s expected indifference to his work as the price he must pay for his martyrdom, and isolate himself in mutual-admiration groups of like-minded poets" (334). The poet as maker is a humbler definition of vocation than that of the prophet or truth-creator, and I would contend that it is more Christian.

The practice of writing poetry and the practice of Christian faith are complementary. One can serve God by writing. However, Martain’s stress on the artist as maker reminds us that there are some potential dangers, too. Luci Shaw in her "Praying and poetry" ponders the wild and humbling nature of prayer in comparison to the seemingly more controllable world of poetic form:

All week I’ve been testing
prayers as I hear them coming
from my mouth, judging the slant and
roominess of their pockets, how deep.
How well measured, and
do I take enough time with them.
[. . . .]
But never, quite. Nor fit around
his spacious glory. Tailoring
a poem satisfies me better:
[. . . .]
showing a selvage of truth, but not
too much, and no frayed edges. (1-6, 11-13, 20-21)

Of course, Shaw is somewhat ironic here. Her poetry has become too mannered and safe as well. Yet she does touch on the difference. Our control of words cannot be the same as our openness and vulnerability before God. Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and poet, in his essay, "Poetry and Contemplation: A Reappraisal" focuses on the tension between the contemplative and aesthetic callings. He points out that both callings share an "immediacy [that] outruns the speed of reasoning and leaves all analysis behind" (347). Both stress the inwardness and disciplined focus necessary for creative awareness. At first glance, this would seem to compare, even conflate the differing gifts, yet a tension remains. The contemplative seeks to fully experience life in order to know God completely, while the artist seeks to fully experience life in order to create the art object. Or following the via negativa, the contemplative divests herself of all preconceived notions to fully contact God, while the artist divests herself to better serve the craft:

If the intuition of the poet naturally leads him into the inner sanctuary of his soul, it is for a special purpose in the natural order [. . .] to reflect upon his inspiration and to clothe it with a special and splendid form and then return to display it to those outside. And here the radical difference between the artist and the mystic begins to be seen. The artist enters into himself in order to work. (350)

The problem is that the poet must serve the work yet also serve God. The risk the artist runs is that, she or he will try to use the experience of the spiritual life as material to grind up for art: "He will objectize his own experience and seek to exploit and empty it for his own sake. He will leave God and return to himself" (351).

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"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding