Interview with Luke Nephew, poet
by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo
SR. CAMILLE: Luke, a mutual Jesuit friend alerted me to your stupendous talent as a poet and added that this gift is one way you live your faith. Please tell us what that means.
LUKE NEPHEW: That was generous of him. I am guilty of being a poet. And I think our poems are often our promises. I recently sat on a stoop in Brooklyn to rest my legs. As I sat there in the shade of a huge oak tree, I spoke to an old woman about God. We laughed and debated for an hour. At the end of the conversation, she said, “Yes, God is love in action, but what pushes us into action is words.” Exactly. My poetry is my push. It comes from the same place within me that my courage and my compassion live. When words emerge from there, they take the shape of a map. If I rap about the need to stop mass incarceration, then I hear about a protest of solitary confinement or the school-to-prison pipeline, well then, that map tells me right where I need to be.
SR. CAMILLE: Can you identify the source of your concern for others?
NEPHEW: I was raised by a tradition of Catholicism that is all about compassion leading to this kind of action. That said, my relationship to organized religion has had enormous changes over the years. While I became disillusioned by a hierarchy that abused power and maintained oppressive structures of patriarchy, I could always hold on to the courageous action that was taken by some in the name of their faith. From Jesuit priests who put their lives on the line to organize and fight for justice to the Missionaries of Charity who dedicate their entire lives to joyfully loving our brothers and sisters who are in severe pain and danger, I have worked with people who live their faith. And so, while my relationship to anything that might happen in Rome faded away long ago, my spiritual and revolutionary practice of love continues to be informed by mentors, teachers and friends who practice Catholicism past the dogma and into the gritty challenges of a world full of war and oppression….