I have been saved more than once by a good poem. N0t because of its arresting metaphors or clever syntax. I enjoy imagery and love the music of words well used. The poems which have saved me are the ones that invited me to a whole new way of seeing the world. Our own senses give us a myopic view of reality. (Good) poetry transforms our perception.
Paraclete Press has introduced me to some great poems in the past several years. The Paraclete Poetry Anthology: Selected and New Poems brings together a selections from the poets Paraclete has published from 2005-2016. John Sweeney (Paraclete Press’s former Editor-in-Chief and Publisher) writes the forward and Mark Burrows (editor) writes an introduction which describes the power poetry has to educate our souls.
Book-ending this collection are, to my mind, the highest profile poets which Paraclete Press has published: Scott Cairns and Rainer Marie Rilke. There are five poems from Cairn’s Slow Pilgrim: Collected Poems (2015) and six of his new poems. Cairns is an Orthodox Christian and which imforms his theological and aesthetic sensibilities. Rilke’s selection comes from Prayers of a Young Poet—the collection of sixty-eight poems—translated by Burrows. Rilke wrote in the voice of an Orthodox monk, though his poetry is not characterized by the same confidence Cairns has. His poems ache and search for encounter with the living Thou. Burrows provides fresh translation of several other Rilke poems.
Between these two greats are other notable poets. There is the late Phyllis Tickle, the godmother of progressive evangelicalism. Her Hungry Spring & Ordinary Songs (2015) is another great emergence to those of us more familiar with here theological works. There are poems here from Paul Mariani, poems by Anna Kamienska (whose poem “On a Thresh Hold of a Poem” provides the introduction to this anthology), Fr. John-Julian, Said, Bonnie Thurston, Greg Miller, William Woolfit, Rami Shapiro, Thomas Lynch, and Paul Quenon. This is a solid collection. About half the poets are new to me. Those I knew, like Cairns, Rilke, and to a lesser extent, John-Julian, Said, and Rami I’ve read and re-read.
This are not just a collection of poems. Theses are religious poems (mostly Christian). They turn transcendence and muse about divinity. Many of these poems pray, some describe and exegete. Others of these moan, sing and contemplate. On the whole a solid and varied collection. Each poem tells truth slant and opens up new vantage points for experiencing God and the world. I give this anthology five stars and recommend this collection for anyone needing more poetry in their life (which is everyone).
Note: I received this book from Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review.