Spiritual poetry for Godspace
Does poetry belong on a website dedicated to helping us find God? Yes, I believe it does. Not all poetry of course, but much of it, whether specifically Christian or not, can act as a text to help us meet with God, give us a vocabulary when we do not know what to say, help a group to share an understanding. (You may like to use hymn and song lyrics in the same way). A poet can be a fine companion with whom to journey, a mentor who can draw us on to help us express something wordless in ourselves, to see something new.
Background to list:
The following are some of the poets I’ve come across from the last 200 years (roughly speaking) whose words I and others have found helpful. Of course not all their poetry is ‘overtly religious’ and what speaks to one person may not speak to another. But these names may give you a starting point to put in your search engine or to leaf through the shelves of a bookshop. Sometimes I’ll mention a particular poem I believe worth considering. Finally I’ve mentioned some specific works from poets whose work I do not generally know, but which I think could be helpful. There is plenty more and I hope you will send me your ‘finds’ so that I can share them here.
In no particular order:
Denise Levertov, her religious poems are gathered in the collection ‘The Stream and The Sapphire’, charting her journey to faith.
Michael Symonds Robert eg Mancunian Miserere
T S Eliot: His ‘Journey of the Magi’ is a fascinating and fantastic example of imaginative contemplation, telling the back story to an episode in the Gospels
Rowan Williams: He likes to be described as ‘not a religious poet but a poet to whom religious things matter enormously’. ‘Advent calendar’ is specifically Christian and good for pondering in season.
U A Fanthorpe: Her ‘BC:AD’ is a tremendous meditation on the meaning of the incarnation.
Leonard Cohen: His modern psalms in his ‘Book of Mercy are fascinating, true cries from the heart of a modern Jew to God.
Chris Southgate: who catches in his writings ‘intimations of the sacred’.
R S Thomas (1913-2000)try ‘Folktale’ (about prayer), ‘Raptor’ for when your God is too small, ‘The Bright Field’ at all times!
Mary Oliver She is described as ‘a mystic of the natural world, not a theologian of the church’. Her way of describing nature can help us learn to look carefully. Try ‘The Journey’, ‘Wild Geese’ ‘If I wanted a boat’.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, complex, often difficult to understand, he forces us to slow down.
Wendell Berry, like Mary Oliver, a mystic of the natural world, try ‘The peace of wild things’.
Some random poems:
Ted Hughes ‘March morning unlike others’ a meditation on the beauty and frailty of the earth.
Christina Rossetti ‘Remember’ a reflection on death and on how it separates friends
Zbigniew Herbert ‘Pebble’ how to meditate on one seemingly dull object!
Louise Gluck ‘Vespers’ one way of speaking to God.
e e cummings ‘I thank you god for most this amazing day’ ;a lovely expression of joy.