By Bob Hulteen
The Rev. Patrick Cabello Hansel, pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, recently was awarded first prize in The Christian Century’s Reformation Poetry Contest, which was co-sponsored by Lutheran Arts, an organization that seeks to create inspiration on issues of faith. Cabello Hansel’s winning entry was titled “Cutting Away.”
“The contest was to write a poem with Reformation themes, and it took me back to my father’s barber shop,” said Cabello Hansel. “I was raised Roman Catholic, and confession in a dark little box was terrifying, but there was another kind of confession going on with the men who entrusted their heads to my dad.”
“Poetry attempts to express the otherwise inexpressible.”
“I was looking for a good poem that satisfied all of the qualities of good poetry – but also one that would be accessible and would deal with Reformation theology in a new and original way – probably through indirection rather than directly,” explained Jill Pelaez Baumgaertner, poetry editor for The Christian Century and author of What Cannot Be Fixed.
“[Patrick’s] poem ‘Cutting Away’ approaches the Reformation theme indirectly, emphasizing the priesthood of all believers which is evident in the barbershop confessional, where one’s sins, like one’s hairs, are ‘swept away at the end of the day,’ Pelaez Baumgaertner added. “It is a delightful piece of writing – surprising, original, and disarming.”
THE IDEA FOR a Reformation Poetry Contest originally was presented to Pelaez Baumgaertner by Lutheran Arts, which was committed to provide funding for the contest. In exchange, The Christian Century would “run the contest, advertise it, and select and publish the winners,” according to the magazine’s poetry editor.
“Poetry attempts to express the otherwise inexpressible,” she added. “Maybe in a sense that was what Luther was up to, too – mainly because the church did not have ears to hear what he was trying to say.”
“[Patrick’s] poem ‘Cutting Away’ approaches the Reformation theme indirectly, emphasizing the priesthood of all believers which is evident in the barbershop confessional.”
Cabello Hansel, who is editor of The Phoenix of Phillips, a local literary magazine, says that writing and submitting poetry fulfills his dual vocation of poet and pastor. “I sent three poems, and actually forgot about it for a while. So when I opened the email, my first thought was ‘Oh, that thing; I wonder who won.’ And it was me.”
Cabello Hansel has a book poetry that will be published in 2018.