Interdisciplinary and ecumenical in scope, Poetry and Prayer offers theoretical discussion on the profound connection between poetic inspiration and prayer as well as reflection on the work of individual writers and the traditions within which they stand. An international range of established and new scholars in literary studies and theology offer unique contributions to the neglected study of poetry in relation to prayer. Part I addresses the relationship of prayer and poetry. Parts II and III consider these and related ideas from the point of view of their implementation in a range of different authors and traditions, offering case studies from, for example, the Bible, Dante, Shakespeare and Herbert, as well as twentieth-century poets such as Thomas Merton, Denise Levertov, W.H. Auden and R.S. Thomas.
’A really valuable collection, attending to both familiar and unfamiliar voices with scholarship, discernment and - not least important - a good ear.’ Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, UK ’Christians commonly use poetry in their worship, for such are the psalms. But is this dual identity just an accident, or is there more to it? Some writers in the twentieth century have suggested as much, among them Henri Bremond, Karl Rahner, Nathan Scott and Evelyn Underhill. The first part of this book offers a fascinating exploration of the plausibility and limitations of such claims, particularly potential overlaps with mysticism and contemplative prayer. In the main the conclusion reached is that parallels run deeper than might initially have been expected, and this seems confirmed by the sensitive and perceptive exploration later in the book of comments from some Christian poets of more recent times, among them W.H. Auden, Denise Levertov and R.S. Thomas. The editors are to be congratulated on a volume that not only fills an obvious gap in the dialogue between theology and literature, but also makes the question stimulating and rewarding.’ David Brown, University of St Andrews, UK ’Striving for what lies beyond language, poem and prayer make their discovery in praise, lament, and petition. Reach always exceeds the grasp. No divine Presence at hand? It may be enough merely to reach toward it - again and again. The essays in this collection show us how it is done.’ Peter S. Hawkins, Yale Divinity School, USA
Preface; Introduction, Francesca Bugliani Knox. Part I Theoretical Perspectives: Poetry and prayer: a survey of some 20th-century studies, David Lonsdale; ‘Prayer is the little implement’: poetic speech and the gestures of prayer in Christian traditions, Mark S. Burrows; Poetry at the threshold of prayer, Antonio Spadaro SJ; Poetry as immanence: how language informs reality, Jay Parini; Poetry and prayer: ‘an inner kinship’, Jennifer Reek. Part II Case Studies: Pre-Modernity: Poetic art and prayer in Psalm 145, David Rensberger; Prayer and prayerfulness in Dante, John Took; Prayer, poetry and silence: a musical correspondence, Małgorzata Grzegorzewska. Part III Case Studies: The Twentieth Century: Re-imagining prayer: coming out of hiding? R.S. Thomas and Tadeusz Różewicz, Jean Ward; Saturday prayer: R.S. Thomas and the search for a silent God, Richard McLauchlan; Thomas Merton’s poetry and prayer, Sarah Law; W.H. Auden and the deep language of poetic prayer, Hester Jones; Denise Levertov: poetry as a way to prayer, Dana Greene.