Psalms can be classified (based on literary form) as laments, thanksgivings, hymns, songs of trust, royal psalms, or wisdom psalms (Anderson ix). When I was recently given the assignment to write a psalm, I decided to try my hand at writing psalms in the form of haiku verse.
Haiku is a Japanese type of poetry characterized by the form of seventeen syllables, in (when written in English) three lines. The first line of five syllables is followed by a line of seven syllables, and then ends with a line of five syllables. Haiku verse is typically unrhymed and is “imagistic, concrete, and pithy, juxtaposing two images in a very few words to create a single crystalline idea” (Holman and Snyder n.p.). Although “[t]raditional Japanese haiku requires a seasonal reference, orkigo, drawn from a defined list of words pertaining to the natural world,” what follows contains references instead to psalms from the Psalter within each of the respective categories (Holman and Snyder n.p.).
Wisdom Psalm: Wisdom psalms can variously be characterized by advice “about conduct that results in either welfare or misfortune,” the exhortation to listen, and/or the use of the address ‘my son’ “customary in wisdom schools” (Anderson 189).
Listen, my child,
God’s teachings are our delight:
Learn well these precepts.
(Community) Thanksgiving Psalm: As Anderson notes, community thanksgiving psalms can resemble hymns of praise, for they often tell of “the mighty acts of God in history” (101).
We were in distress…
God’s love endures forever;
Our God has saved us!
Royal Psalm: As Anderson notes in Royal Psalms, the king is the central figure (166). In addition, “after the fall of the Davidic monarchy in 587 B.C., these [types of] psalms were interpreted to refer to the Anointed one (Messiah) of the future” (Anderson 170).
You, the Messiah,
You are the Anointed One:
All glory is yours.
Hymn of Praise: Anderson tells us that the hymn, tehillah, is a song “which extols the glory and greatness of YHWH as it is revealed in nature and history….” (122).
Snow, ice, sun, moon, stars –
The earth – full of God’s splendor –
Praise our Creator!
Psalm of Trust: We learn from Anderson that psalms of trust often include “references to cultic actions” later spiritually interpreted (178).
In the assembly
I praise you in songs and prayers;
Always my refuge.
Psalm of Lament: According to Anderson, laments typically move quickly from a cry of distress to one of trust in God, the latter often introduced with ‘yet’ or ‘still’ (177).
My Savior and God,
When will you come to my aid?
Still, I will trust you.
Above image from the Holy Rule; calligraphy by Meridith Schifsky and illustrations by +Sister Mary Charles McGough, OSB. Copyright © St. Scholastica Monastery Duluth, Minnesota.
Anderson, Bernhard W. with Steven Bishop. Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today. Third edition, Revised and Expanded. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. Print.
Holman, Bob and Margery Snyder. “Haiku.” About.com Guides. Web. 13 Jan. 2013.
Sister Kathleen Del Monte
Kathleen Del Monte is a novice at St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New York, she worked as a policy analyst for a state legislature before getting that all important ‘call’ from God (God can, indeed, be persistent!). So in August, 2011, she knocked and the Sisters opened the door to her becoming an affiliate. On July 15, 2012, she became a postulant. On August 22, 2013, the Sisters ceremonially accepted her into the Community as a Novice and she is now Sister Kathleen.