LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Monday, April 07, 2008

Poets Past (and Present), Part 2

Throughout the ages, poetry—both the writing and the reading of it—has helped us make sense of the human experience. Poems written by Christians that have stood the test of time often ask difficult questions, exploring the depths of our relationship to a holy but loving God. With beautiful words and images, these poets’ work can give glory to God and edify and encourage their readers. Here are a few of them through the eyes of readers who admire their work.

Note: This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in The Lookout, December 17, 2006 . I posted the beginning of the article a few weeks ago if you'd like to read it.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889): British Victorian poet and priest.

Jeanne Murray Walker, professor of English at University of Delaware and award-winning author of six volumes of poetry: Gerard Manley Hopkins didn’t succeed in getting his work published during his lifetime. Now we think of him as one of the pre-eminent 19th century poets. Good for [beginning readers of poetry] are “Pied Beauty” and “God’s Grandeur.”

13. Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things-
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fallow, and plough; 5
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: 10
Praise him.

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963): Irish-born professor, scholar, novelist, and after converting to Christianity from atheism, a well-respected apologist for the faith.

David Bruce Linn, pastor-teacher, radio Bible teacher, and writer: C.S. Lewis, in his one piece As the Ruin Falls, destroys me with the transparency of a man whose heart has been stripped bare by the Holy Spirit. Phil Keaggy wrote this poem into a song which enabled many of us to memorize it easily. It was not hard to remember, but it has taken me decades to appreciate the burning depths of spiritual reality Lewis expressed.

Here are some contemporary poets whose faith informs their work.

Wendell Berry (1934- ): American poet, novelist, essayist, and farmer.

Beverly Key, visual artist: I love Wendell Berry. He is from Kentucky, lives on a farm and taught for many years at the University of Kentucky. His work is tied to the land and ecology and our responsibility to it as Christians and humans. Two particular favorites begin - “When despair for the world grows in me” and “I think of Gloucester blind, led through the world.”

I respect Berry’s balanced view of what is God’s responsibility and what is our responsibility. Berry seems to be the kind of man who lives his beliefs, has a deep reverence for life and a keen sense of justice. Whenever I read him I take hope.

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995): American poet and translator.

Phil Bauman, senior pastor: Jane Kenyon wandered away from Christianity. While at college at the University of Michigan, she married her professor, Donald Hall (who is the past Poet Laureate of the U.S.). They moved back to New Hampshire and started attending a little country church and over time she regained her faith. She wrote one of my favorite poems called “Let Evening Come.” I like its confidence and gentleness, both rooted in the lovingkindness and faithfulness of God. I find it almost musical and read it like a psalm, or as a litany.

Other contemporary poets recommended by our readers include Scott Cairns, Robert Seigel, Luci Shaw, and Jeanne Murray Walker.

This week, I'm going to visit two good friends. I'll post again on Friday instead of Thursday.

1 comment:

Crystal Laine Miller said...

Do you know where C.S. Lewis was born? I'll have to look that up. I just found out where in Ireland my ancestors are from and I am curious.

I enjoyed this walk through the great poetry. It's been a long time since I sat and thought about poets and poetry.

Two of my four sons write "poetry" that just takes my breath sometimes! It's interesting how a turn of phrase can move your brain into realms you hadn't imagined before.


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