MANHATTAN — Clare McCallan, a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Williamsburg, and a former director of religious education at St. Matthew’s, Crown Heights, knows about taking a leap of faith.
The leap she took earlier this year: becoming a full-time poet. The 25-year-old, who is originally from Boston, is a “spoken word poet,” someone who performs live reciting poetry or speaking the words extemporaneously.
McCallan spoke to The Tablet earlier this month in Manhattan at a meeting of Catholic Creatives, a group of young Catholic artists (see article on page 20). McCallan is an example of a young Catholic trying to make a living while melding her faith with her art.
Her job as a poet takes her throughout North America to perform. In June, she performed at St. James Cathedral, Downtown Brooklyn, at an event during Religious Freedom Week.
“It’s been good to see how Catholic audiences receive spoken word poetry, because it’s not something we’re used to as a tool for evangelizing,” McCallan said.
Her calling to poetry began in 2018, when she volunteered with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, the order of religious sisters that was founded by Mother Teresa. McCallan worked at a home for disabled orphans there.
When she was in Calcutta, she became bedridden with typhoid. During that time, she watched poets on YouTube and became inspired to write poetry herself. She wrote her first poems about her experiences in Calcutta, a series that she entitled “Leper Lover.”
McCallan moved to New York two years ago to pursue her dream of being a poet in the city. She has performed at different events and iconic venues, including Manhattan’s Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and has taken different jobs — from retail to religious education — to support herself.
Since becoming a full-time poet, McCallan has written about living in New York, her faith and even a pro-life piece. She understands the struggles of many young adults starting out.
“When you’re at a crossroads, the devil knows he has an in, and he can make us self-doubt to the point where we won’t do the brave thing,” she said.
“I hope that my poems can inspire people to do the brave thing. That’s how we build the kingdom.”