Images are designed to image — to reflect, to point.
Created in the image of God, we all are designed, like the God-man, to reflect God. To show God, to point to him, to image God.
One prominent way in which we reflect our Creator is through creating. We point to our Maker when we make. As John Piper says in the introduction to his new poetry book Esther, God made us to be makers.
It has always seemed plain to me that the imagination is a gift of God and is meant to reflect his own creativity. He thought up the universe out of nothing, then created us in his own image. So we do that kind of thing. Not that very thing. But that kind of thing. Only God creates out of nothing. We are not God. But we are like him when we create.
Perhaps this is why I feel so at home when writing poetry. I don't mean I feel relaxed or in control. I usually don't. I mean: This is who I am—who God made me to be. A creator, a maker. I suspect that deep down that's the way we all feel when we are making what God made us to make. A poem is not necessarily a better thing to make than a birthday card, or a rose garden, or a website. But it is one of the things I love to make. (7)
Piper is a poet. Preacher of sermons, yes. Writer of prose, yes. But you miss a deep-down part of him if you overlook the poetry.
What Is Poetry?
So what then is Piper's definition of poetry? Here's his go at it:
What I mean by poetry is that: "An effort to share a moving experience by using language that is chosen and structured differently from ordinary prose." Sometimes it rhymes. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it has a regular cadence. Sometimes it doesn't. But almost always the poet has experienced something — something horrible or wonderful or ordinary — and he feels that he must share it. Using words differently from ordinary prose is his way of trying to awaken something of this experience (and more) in the reader. (7–8)
The Esther Poems
Without telling you what it is that moves Piper most in the story of Esther, here's how he conceives of his project:
I retell the story by filling in possibilities of what might have been, mingled with what really was. My aim is to respect what really was by creating nothing that could not have been. And what has been created is not Scripture. It is meant to awake us to the wonder of what is really there. (9)
Desiring God is pleased to announce that Esther is now available from Crossway Books.
Other poetry books by John Piper: