The voice in this narrative poem by Ren Jackson explores the heartache and journey of praise in response to 1 Samuel 2:1-10.
Artist Curated by
1 Samuel 2:1–10
1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD , mine horn is exalted in the LORD : my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. 2 There is none holy as the LORD : for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. 3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. 4 The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. 5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble. 6 The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. 7 The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. 8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s , and he hath set the world upon them. 9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. 10 The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.
I will offer this: What struck me from the start was Hannah's voice. On one level, it was fascinating to go through several iterations of the passage, i.e., God's Word, Good News Bible, Amplified and particularly The Message to see how her story was related. Then, on another, to hear how she made her promise to God, in some cases it said, vow, and her subsequent exaltation, to God, for the promise that was fulfilled. It was that exaltation, her song of praise, that resonated with me and is the core of the narrative of the poem. I wanted to explore how might that sound in a contemporary tone, yet rooted in Hannah's voice.
As I continued to compose the piece, I felt compelled to include echoes of what transpires in 1 Samuel 1. I thought the reader would appreciate the context of the narrative better with a few more lines providing that referenced where and why the 'song' was lifted up.
I know there are diverse examples of this kind of praise throughout the Bible. As much as I was inspired by Hannah's act of worship, it was also the tenacity, and specificity to which she spoke that captivated my imagination. There is clearly an emotional distance that Hannah covers, and what I hoped to convey by the 'end' (because it's a beginning, too) was a sense that along the way she found the space to accept that she was no longer 'broken or barren'—indeed, never was—and that she came to the conclusion to make the choice to dance till her home-going.
Ren Jackson: Born and bred in Indianapolis, this Midwest kid was molded in the deserts of Arizona, and forged on the stages of Chicago. Ren emerged amid the thriving theater and teaching artist community in New York, having logged miles regionally as a professional actor, including time as a company member with the Brooklyn-based, site-specific theater company, Brave New World Rep, in addition to building on his stints as a teaching artist in Chicago and New York.
Being a former competitive athlete, much of his approach to his work is grounded in his exploration of a story's physicality. Whether it be through stage combat, dance, gesture or stylized movement, his commitment and enthusiasm to creating a physical narrative that supplements and highlights a text are evident.
Ren is always up for collaboration on projects with a focus on strong storytelling, spiritual development, ensemble building and mentoring youth in the performing arts, fitness or sports.