Accidental Poetry: Tolstoy and Me Liturgy of Life Reading Group

I haven’t intentionally written a poem since graduating high school. While I have come to love reading poetry aloud with my family it remains mostly a mysterious art. So it took me by surprise when I was preparing for the Liturgy of Life Reading group and looked down to see several poems on my page.

As I read our latest book Tolstoy’s, The Death of Ivan Ilyich I jotted down phrases and ideas that seemed to characterize each chapter as I went along.  I enjoyed seeing how my highlighted phrases told the story of Ivan’s progression.  Liking what I saw I narrowed the words and phrases down even more to create a simple summary. Unexpectedly  what appeared on my page looked like several simple poems which had originating in Tolstoy’s words and had been edited down by me.

If you are a real poet I don’t know that this process is much to get excited about, but I felt like I had discovered an entirely new way to interact with my reading material and as if I was collaborating with the great mind of Tolstoy on a new project.  I am sharing a few here not because they are great works but rather as an encouragement and a hope that new ways to love learning will sneak up on you. And that this book in particular would challenge you in some new direction.

Chapter 4

It was his own rage killing him,

it was his fault,

edge of destruction


Chapter 6

Constant despair

all is exposed

face to face

staring at death

it could penetrate anything

stare at it and go cold

Chapter 8

Hateful death

dirt disorder



terrified of being alone.

Chapter 9

Tears like a child,



pleasures melted to something disgusting.

Maybe I didn’t live as I should have?

Chapters 10, 11 and 12

What is this?

Life is a series of increasing sufferings.

Have I really been wrong?

all wrong?

Struggling against the black sack,


What is the right thing?

It could still be put right.

Instead of death there was light.


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