Poetry from a Pandemic Year: Bethany grad Amy Lutes Publishes New Book

Amy Lutes, who completed her Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination at Bethany in 2020, has published a poetry collection entitled, Stay with Me: Poems from a Year of Beauty and Ashes.

The book includes 52 poems written between January 2020 and the one-year anniversary of pandemic-related shutdowns, in March 2021. Many of the poems were inspired by her use of an “instant poetry” app on her phone, which provides a background photo along with a collection of words that the user can rearrange to create an original work. Her poems acknowledge the “collective trauma” caused by the pandemic while also offering the reader the promise of bright things to come, as in this example:

Even in a year like this
we can hold
in our hands
in our lungs
in our hearts

She described the practice of writing the poems that appear in Stay with Me as “visio Divina,” a process in which a particular photograph or other image inspires her to write a verse. This book is an outgrowth of spiritual and creative practices that she developed as a Bethany student.

“Found poetry is my jam,” says Lutes. She began a project entitled, Goodbye Brutal Romance as a final project for a two-week intensive course in theopoetics at Bethany. She often combines abstract paintings with text cut from books that she has “rescued from the free bin” at a favorite bookstore in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. For her new book, Lutes wrote short poems late at night, carving time out of days when her primary responsibilities included helping her kids, ages 9 and 11, complete virtual school, and navigating the stress of the pandemic.

“I hope that each of these poems will provide readers with a little piece of hope, and a whisper that God is still there,” she says.

Lutes, who holds a B.A. in English Language and Literature, is also at work on a series of young adult novels and is pursuing ordination in the Church of the Nazarene.

Stay With Me: Poems from a Year of Beauty and Ashes is available from Amazon and Goodreads.