The Bible is by far the leading source of inspiration for Western literature, and in particular, the life of Jesus has drawn the attention of artists and writers throughout the ages. Now, in a volume of astonishing range and originality, Robert Atwan, George Dardess, and Peggy Rosenthal present 280 remarkable poems from world literature focusing on Jesus's life and teaching.
Readers accustomed to the predictable inclusions of many anthologies will be surprised and delighted by the diversity of poets represented here, from Aquinas, Dante, de Guevara, Donne, and Sor Juana, to D.H. Lawrence, Gabriela Mistral, Wole Soyinka, Margaret Atwood, Gwendolyn Brooks, Czeslaw Milosz, and Leopold Senghor. Perhaps no other thematically organized anthology could have brought together writers as different as Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas Merton, Alice Walker, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Jack Kerouac. Indeed, simply to turn the page in Divine Inspiration is an adventure in itself. And in terms of form, style, modulations of tone and perspective, the variety here is as unparalleled as it is unpredictable.
The editors of Divine Inspiration have done a masterful job of unifying this vast assortment of poems. Organized chronologically around the life of Jesus, the book is divided into nine sections--from Birth and Infancy, through Healings and Miracles, to the Resurrection-- and presents passages from the Gospels followed by the poems they inspired. This structure gives readers the dual pleasures of a strong narrative pull punctuated by moments of lyric intensity. Our familiarity with the life of Jesus is thus enlivened, deepened, and in some cases wholly transformed by the imaginative power of the poems. In the largest section of the book, on the Passion of Jesus, we find an array of poems by Anna Akhmatova, Antonio Machado, Thomas Hardy, Miguel de Unamuno, Charles Baudelaire, R.S. Thomas, Andrew Marvell, Frederico Garcia Lorca, and Denise Levertov, among others. To see the Passion of Jesus refracted through the lenses of such poets is to see it anew, or more vividly than before. And to encounter Chinese, Korean, Nigerian, Arab, Latin American, Scandinavian, Hungarian, and Greek poets alongside English, French, and German is a testimony both to the editors' devoted scholarship and to the power of Jesus's life to inspire great poetry across a spectrum of cultures and eras.
An invaluable sourcebook for students, scholars, and general readers alike, Divine Inspiration should prove equally satisfying to readers with a strong interest in religion and to all lovers of poetry.
"Divine Inspiration delivers a dazzling variety of voices representing every continent and every century of the Common Era. Each poet's art is distinctive, illuminating a critical, sometimes contested, facet of Christ's career--from his birth to the cross and beyond. This is no one-size-fits-all anthology that fears cultural difference or individual eccentricity: Jack Kerouac nestles alongside modern popes and medieval prelates. A brave, compelling
collection for doubters as well as the devout."--Nathan Mitchell, University of Notre Dame
"The collection boasts a strong sense of biblical narrative enlivened by moments of stirring lyrical beauty, allowing opportunities for devotional meditation as well as confrontation with the stark questions of faith and doubt."--Publishers Weekly
"In following the life of Jesus rather than a historical chronology of literature,the collection juxtaposes, in often rather surprising ways, familiar and unfamiliar, old and new poems.... The effect of this method of organization is to call attention to the extraordinary variety of ways in which people have responded to the life of Jesus and to the persisitent attraction the story of his life has had for believers and nonbelievers even beyond the so-called
eras of faith.... reading a poem or two a day from this brilliant and unusual collection one is bound to come upon a phrase, a line, a metaphor that defamiliarizes even the best known moments in the gospel stories."-- The Boston Book Review, Robert Kiely
"A benediction of a collection."--Booklist
"Recommended for most collections."--Library Journal
"This is a book to browse or, for the preacher, to mine....it is a wonderful read, full of new poems as well as welcoming the old poems which, once, everyone with any Catholic culture would have known at least in passing. For those poets who are unknown to us, the full bibliographies in the credits provide further resources to discover. I loved this book." --Lawrence S. Cunningham, Commonweal
"It truly is a wonderful collection....the juxtaposition of contemporary writers with ancient ones gives the book a deliciously heady feel.... The sheer diversity in this book is inspiring."--Kathleen Norris, Christian Century
"One can only be grateful for the cornucopian selection of excellent poems. These are beautifully made and intelligently selected books of poetry. Within this judiciously balanced superstructure, the editors present an extremely wide range of poetry collected from around the world....the remarkable effort that has been made to arrange a wide variety of responses to the life of Jesus." --Suzanne Keen, Cross Currents
"The collection boasts a strong sense of biblical narrative enlivened by moments of stirring lyrical beauty, allowing opportunities for developmental mediation as well as confrontation with the stark questions of faith and doubt."--Publishers Weekly
"A benediction of a collection." --Ray Olson,Booklist
"A brilliant and unusual collection..." --Robert Kiely, The Boston Book Review