Poetry as Prayer

A Program for Writers & Non-Writers

March 17 – 18, Shepherd’s Spring Retreat Center, Sharpsburg, MD.

At the tip of the poet’s pen, a sacred space unfolds, where writer and reader meet the God who seeks them both.

Poetry as Prayer brought me to that deeper place where I was ‘me,’ but then with the group, we were ‘we’ and beyond, creating and praying together regardless of religious beliefs or the lack thereof.
– Workshop Participant Donnette Hill Walto

It’s a great mystery, how words can conjure such wordless and loving communion, yet poets and mystics throughout the ages have said that it is so. Find out why during this day of inspired discovery that includes contemplative reading of a wide variety of poems, discussion with like-minded others, and guided writing exercises you can use to write your own poems or as a springboard to reflective journaling. Suitable for writers and non-writers alike.

Through a series of readings, plus individual and collaborative writing exercises, Poetry as Prayer created a sacred space that enabled a deeper sense of Presence. Moving and inspiring.
– Workshop Participant Philip Panzarella, MD

Poet Denise Levertov says, “The poet, when writing, is a priest; the poem is a temple; epiphanies and communion take place within it.”

Try reading this poem and see if you agree.

The Nest

This morning
I watched a goldfinch
Disappear into a tree
Through a hole no bigger

Than my open mouth.
From the hollow
The bird
Began her crooning.

That’s what poetry is
I thought —
Not the tree,
But the hidden song.

Not the yellow bird,
But the instinct to climb
Inside the darkness
To sing.

— Benjamin Gucciardi


“There is no hidden poet in me. Just a little piece of God that might grow into poetry.” (Etty Hillesum)


Shepherd’s Spring Ministry Center
16869 Taylors Landing Road
Sharpsburg, MD 21782
(301) 223-8193

Located on 200 wooded acres just 1.5 hours west of Washington, DC, Shepherd’s Spring provides the perfect contemplative setting for poetry and prayer.

Your Retreat Leader

elizabeth-ayres-windPoetry as Prayer is led by Elizabeth Ayres, an award-winning poet and essayist, and the founder of the Center for Creative Writing.

A charismatic speaker and workshop leader, Elizabeth has taught at the New York Open Center, Ghost Ranch Conference Center, Bon Secours Retreat Center. She’s also a Benedictine Oblate whose spiritual journey has occurred “at the tip of her pen” for a lifetime.

Explore videos and text of selected poems from Elizabeth’s new work-in-progress, Azimuth of God: poems of absence & presence.