So I commented in a recent post that, however few contemporary novels and stories explore religious experience from the inside, it is a rich time for religious poetry. And maybe that makes sense, too: after all, it’s possible that verse is better suited for exploring the textures, the shifting moods and feelings, of the religious life than is fiction. No one literary genre is capable of doing everything equally well.
The landscape of contemporary Christian poetry — I’m confining myself to the Christian because that’s what I know best — is a richly varied one. Just consider the ange represented by this small, by no means exhaustive, selection from poets who are active now:
- Mark Jarman, “Unholy Sonnets”
- Andrew Hudgins, “Praying Drunk”
- Julia Kasdorf, “Mennonites”
- Dana Gioia, “Prayer”
- Brett Foster, “Artes Liberales”
- Franz Wright, “Bees of Eleusis”
- Kimberly Johnson, “Easter, Looking Westward”
- David Wright, “Two Suppers at Emmaus by Caravaggio”
- Les Murray, “The Say-But-the-Word Centurion Attempts a Summary”
Again, the variety of theme and treatment is the key — and this is only a very small selection. I could have chosen a completely different group of poets to illustrate my point. And by the way, I have chosen here only active poets who are likely to write more — considerably more, except in the case of the incomparable Les Murray, who is 74 now — and poets working in English. Elsewhere in the world there are many others.