It has been said that James Weldon Johnson poem "The Creation" is based on his memories of sermons. In what ways is the poem like a sermon and the poet like a preacher?
Great poems and great sermons share similar traits: both rely heavily on imagery, story-telling and a rhythmic quality. To gain some insights into a particulary rich preaching tradition, you might look at Henry H. Mitchell's, Black Preaching: The Recovery of a Powerful Art.
Images are descriptions that use the five senses. Both poems and sermons rely on these to paint a vivid picture in people's minds of what they are discussing. When Martin Luther King, who was trained as a preacher, gave his sermon-like "I Have a Dream" speech, the vivid images, such as "justice rolls down like water," remained in people's mind in the way abstract terms (such as just saying the word "justice" ) would not. In the poem you mention, "The Creation," Johnson also uses vivid imagery, such as
the rainbow appeared/And curled itself around [God's] shoulder
This shows God's intimacy with nature and is a beautiful image that supports the idea that creation is good.
God scooped the clay ... by the bank of the river/He kneeled him down ...
the picture that Johnson provides here shows how God humbled himself while creating humankind.
Poets and preachers often (not always) tell stories. The Bible is a collection of stories and both poets and preachers understand that they can often best convey truths in narrative form, even if these stories are just tiny snippets.
Finally, poets use rhyme, rhythm and repetition, among other techniques, to help people remember and to reinforce important messages. Preachers use cadence, which is how a person's voice rises and falls, to create a sense of rhythm. Preachers also use repetition to reinforce their most important points.
Both poets and preachers hope to persuade people and often do it through using rich and startling language that remains in people's minds.
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