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Saturday, November 15, 2003

Poetry and religion.

VespersHere's a resource poetry lovers, ministers, and thoughtful religious people will love: Vespers: Contemporary American Poems of Religion and Spirituality edited by Virgil Suárez and Ryan G. Van Cleave (U of Iowa P, 2003). I recognized Stephen Dunn and Martín Espada (whose new collection, Alabanza, I highly recommend), but almost every other contributor was new to me. There's no sentimentality here, but there are dozens of fine poems — most of them especially well-suited to reading aloud. Where does poetry and religion intersect? The editors offer a good answer:

At the root of every religion is the premise that an individual can connect profoundly with a reality that's somehow beyond the personal, limited self and yet part of it as well.

Unitarian Universalists: Take note especially of Stephen Dunn's prose poem "Religion" (page 45), which includes these lines:

Indulge, become capacious, give up nothing, Jack my corner grocer said. He was pushing the portobellos, but I was listening with that other, my neediest ear.

And if sometimes the untethered relativism of a certain sort of "independent thinker" just bugs the hell out of you, you may find bitter comfort in Charles Harper Webb's "What We Believe" (page 132), a creed for the creedless and everyone who believes that "Religions are all superstitions except ours." Sometimes a bitter poem is just the pill I need.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 15 November 2003 at 2:19 PM

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