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Abbey of the Arts Featured Poet: Nita Penfold

We are launching a new series this spring with poets whose work we love and want to feature!

Our next poet is Nita Penfold whose work is currently themed around harvest. You can hear Nita reading her poem “Think of a Time When” below and read more about the connections she makes between poetry and the sacred.

Think of a Time When

you were truly yourself, that age
before the mask was pulled tight
before the roles were welded like armor to your skin.
Remember the one thing you loved
above all else, that, given perfect freedom,
you could be found doing
when they looked for you to do something else,
something useful; the thing that made
you feel whole and hopeful,
full of something that lifted you out of yourself
but anchored you home
so that you didn’t know where that thing began, where you ended,
so much were you in the river of it, the flow
of hand to heart and heart to soul,
that was all of one piece called you.

You know what it is.  Remember it.
Hold it up like a shiny vintage ornament
turn it to and fro.
It is the true gift
just below your conscious thought, itching at you
to touch it once more.
Latch onto that feeling,
let the stillness find you and the wholeness
bubble up from the bottom of your stone well.

What might you do with it now?

©Nita Penfold
From Landing in Oz

Poetry and the Sacred

Poetry is about slowing down and capturing a moment and connecting that moment to something larger than itself, than yourself.  The practice of writing poetry forces me to contemplate the world with a continually new lens that pushes open the boundaries of the sacred. I believe that our spirituality, the essence, the gift, of who we are, is deeply connected with our creativity, the expression of that essence into the world, whatever form it takes.  I see these connections as the inner and outer, the yin and yang, the being and doing of life that spiral me deeper into the sacred as they lead me out of myself.  I have always seen my work as a ministry of empowering others to find their spirit and express it openly in their lives, to guide them to an awareness of their own deep divine core and to give them the invitation, the permission, they need to play, create, and renew through the arts.

Themes of Her Work

Currently, the main theme in my work is harvesting. Since retiring, I have been exploring my life lessons and how these have contributed to my deep spirituality and creativity. I found this inner vegetation growing that I insisted were weeds at the time, but now have yielded magnificent blossoms and healing herbs that help me recognize the Divine in myself and others. My current project, Advice to Pilgrims, is an attempt to capture the parts of my journey that will help others, knowing that I can only describe one example, for no two paths are ever the same.

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Oh Great Mystery of Being

Let my small story
connect to your larger one.
May we breathe with one breath.
May we make this day holy together.

©Nita Penfold
From Advice to Pilgrims


You wake to the honey
light before anyone else, perch
on the long wooden stair top,
wishing to be old enough to
drag the wide-bottomed boat
out alone, to command the creak
of oars, the water’s flash, to
steer to where the Buddha-frogs
nightly chant their steely croak,
where the water spiders stride
across the surface like complacent
miracles, where something calls
to you like the red-winged blackbird
clinging to the high reeds skirting
the lake and you want to purse
your mouth just so
and answer, yes,

©Nita Penfold
From They Stand Up in Broken Shells

About Nita

Nita Penfold has been writing poetry since the age of eight. She received her Masters in Writing from Lesley University in 1986 and her Doctorate in Ministry from Wisdom University in 2002. She taught spirituality and arts courses in the Worship and Theology Arts Department at Andover Newton Theological School and has led a variety of arts-based workshops for adults, youth, and children through SpiritArts. Her art has been exhibited throughout New England, and her poetry has been widely published for the past 35 years.

She understands the religious vocation as a call from the deepest center of consciousness to step forward into one’s Divine self, into the very center of the existential questions, and to dwell there, seeking and finding, seeking and finding in a one long spiral of growing awareness. To her, ministry then becomes the impulse to come up out of that authentic center with compassion and help others to listen to the call and respond in their own unfolding, which then effects change in the world. She does this ministry through spirituality and the arts in the context of Unitarian Universalist religious education of children, youth and adults and through the medium of poetry and visual arts.

Dr. Penfold is the wife of Nick Page, song-leader and composer, the mother of two daughters, and grandmother of three.

More information on her books and art is available at

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Landing in Oz

They Stand Up in Broken Shells

(using the Amazon links above help to support the Abbey scholarship fund at no additional cost to you)

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Dreaming of Stones

(available to pre-order)

Christine Valters Paintner‘s new collection of poems Dreaming of Stones will be published by Paraclete Press this March.

The poems in Dreaming of Stones are about what endures: hope and desire, changing seasons, wild places, love, and the wisdom of mystics. Inspired by the poet’s time living in Ireland these readings invite you into deeper ways of seeing the world. They have an incantational quality. Drawing on her commitment as a Benedictine oblate, the poems arise out of a practice of sitting in silence and lectio divina, in which life becomes the holy text.

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