My Body is Theology: Poetry of Self-hood and Self-naming

I would like to read poetry that attends to my self-hood and self-naming. In this, I fully intend to exercise my identity as a theologian.


Though my inspirations are theologians, poets, and literary voices alike, I must confess that I am my primary reference. Like M. Shawn Copeland suggests, I am the source of God’s activity in the world. Everything about me carries a message. My being speaks something, tells stories; thus, where better to start than myself?


My body is my theology; all the questions that it has, everything that it is trying to learn itself to be – its doctrine. I hope to share it with you. The inquiries around my American African identity and what it means about who I am and where I am are all religious texts, containing secrets of my createdness and formation. Everything about my discovering myself bears witness to my religion, a religion whose primary task is to listen, who taught me that hearing is the most elusive of spiritual acts.


Thus, words that don’t know, words that do know, and words that journey their way towards knowing of any sort are sites of belief and learning. They are the sources of the “true-true” as Emilie Townes reminds me.


My words about my identity are prayer from the recesses of who I am; it is the language of the body that makes itself known through close listening, interpreting, and a rare form of sight. It is the vessel through which God can dream me, to invoke Dorothee Sölle.


Poetry grants me sight, the ability to identify where divinity is resting and where evil is trying to break in. These words have the power to grant me my freedom. My poetry is my theology. Theolo-try/theolotry. She calls herself something different – and rightly so. She understands that intellect exceeds ivory towers. God is found in the wor(l)ds that fall in-between, that become wedged between our good intentions and our modes of expression. My poetry is positively defiant, bored by coloniality. Theolotry, then, needs new frameworks.


I recognize Audre Lorde and Chimamanda Adichie, Nayyirah Waheed and Ijeoma Umebinyuo as theological prophets, but there are many more who do not have to hold certain letters behind their names. I imagine that the letters of their own names can suffice. These women remind me of the vastness of theolotry. I am reminded that sources of divine revelation traverse the optics of what the academy has deemed theo-logic. Theo-logic runs all the way through and alongside of messages of liberation and freedoms.


Womanism and feminism are theolotries. I find solace and place in the voices of women who decide that liberation is theirs, too. Poetry as theology is God-chatter in a different register and recognized beyond certain patterns of speaking. It is found in the defiance of the status quo and embraced in the stubbornness of freedom.


In my writing I must start with myself, for I must remember that my freedom has always lived in me all along.