My favorite poets tend to be those I know, and Sarah Katreen Hoggatt is no exception. I first met her last summer when she was the official photographer for a show I was in at the Pentacle Theater. I was impressed with her artistic eye and even more by her character. She radiated goodness. We stayed in touch.
It was only this spring that I found out Hoggatt wrote poetry and had published four books of Christian poetry.
Until I discovered Hoggatt’s books, I didn’t intend to write about a Christian poet. Religion can be a divisive subject. While I consider myself a follower of Christ, I respect the ideals of most religions and tend to avoid literature labeled “Christian.”
“Sarah writes with the prophetic fire of Kahlil Gibran and from a stillness reminiscent of Wendell Berry’s Sabbath poems. The effect is nothing less than the re-sacralization of Life—every step, corner, switchback, and rest.”
—John Erik Pattison, Coauthor of Slow Church
However, not only is Hoggatt an outspoken Christian, but in my observation, she follows the injunction of the New Testament Christ to be a steward to others, to care for the vulnerable, and to offer love and compassion. I jumped at a chance to read her poetry.
Hoggatt has deep roots in Salem and the Pacific Northwest; her great-great-great grandfather had a homestead in Keizer. She has been writing poetry since junior high and published her first book, Learning to Fly, at 23. It has since been joined by three others: Flying Lessons, In the Wild Places, and Finding Love’s Way.
Reading through Hoggatt’s four books, I find she writes with vulnerability and honesty. Her poems are the way she talks with God and seeks meaning in the natural world. From one book to the next, they trace a remarkable transformation.
Her earliest book, Learning to Fly, feels akin to the Psalms of David. The poems praise and seek out God. The speaker in the poems is someone vulnerable, working to make an abstract ideal real.
The Phoenix Rise Again
Don’t give up on the dead
for the world is not what it seems
and what appears to be gone
may be simply transformed,
changed for a time
into an unrecognizable state
we do not see
unless we look with our eyes closed,
our hearts open,
to what only silence can understand.
The dead may still return
like flowers left on a grave
having taken root
and unfurling their sweet scent,
filling the air.
In Hoggatt’s second book, Flying Lessons, her poetry has matured into what feels like passionate love letters written to God. These poems refer to God as Beloved, as Love. The speaker represents herself as both child and bride. She is a human reaching out to find her place in the cosmos.
Hoggatt takes herself deeper in her third volume, In the Wild Places. Here her relationship with God is conveyed through everyday intimate conversations—still filled with passionate love but now also encompassing such common emotions as anger, bafflement, shame, and thankfulness. There is even some delightful humor. Here we see a true relationship.
In her fourth poetry book, Finding Love’s Way, Hoggatt’s love for and relationship with her God has evolved still further. Here the poetry explores bringing that deep love to the others in her life. The poems are addressed to others while still also speaking directly to God.
When I asked Hoggatt what she believed was the message of her books, she replied “People take different meanings from the books depending on their own life and journey. What I hope comes across, though, is how connected we all are to each other, the Divine/God, and the earth.”
This article is one of a monthly series written by members of the Mid-Valley Poetry Society. Its author, Cynthia G. Evans, aka Ariel, can be reached at < poet_Ariel@yahoo.com>.
Originally published in Poetry Corner, Salem Statesman Journal on June 5, 2018