Friday, February 23, 2018

Poems of Faith by Bob Blaisdell

I am always in pursuit of good Christian poetry. Not the sing-song-y drivel that is often passed off as "inspirational," but the meatier stuff that is theologically sound and painfully honest. Here is an example of the fluffy kind:

The priceless gift of life is love,
For with the help of God above
Love can change the human race
And make this world a better place
For love dissolves all hate and fear
And makes our vision bright and clear
So we can see and rise above
Our pettiness on wings of love.

You'll find nothing of that kind in Poems of Faith, edited by Bob Blaisdell. He has deftly chosen solid poems about faith by the best authors of the last 400 years. Some were familiar to me (Robert Herrick, Francis Quarles, George Herbert) and others were discoveries (Christopher Harvey, John Day, etc.) Most of them reveal a deep longing for God in their writings.

Quarles (1592-1644) beautifully describes his heart as Like to An Arctic Needle, concluding that Christ is his true North.  Christina Rossetti affirms her helplessness apart from Christ in None Other Lamb. And John Newton reminds us of the irony of the cross when he writes:

Thus, while his death my sin displays
In all it's blackest hue
(Such is the mystery of grace),
It seals my pardon too.

A few poems go on for several pages and will be off-putting to our present (attention span-deficient) generation. The old-fashioned language may be a struggle unless, like me, you had the privilege of hearing King James English as a child. Nevertheless, Blaisdell's book is a good introduction to some of the best devotional poetry in the English language. If you enjoy it, you may want to go to the next level with these lengthier, even meatier tomes: The Oxford Book of Christian Verse (1940 version) and The One Year Book of Poetry. (The latter is surprisingly cheap for a used copy.)



Carol said...

I have a number of books with poetry collection but only one Christian volume & that’s by George Herbert. Thanks for mentioning this one. I’ve actually found a modern poet I like, the Polish Catholic, Milosz:

Sherry said...

I really like Herbert, John Donne, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

hopeinbrazil said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Carol. I'm always looking for good, solid poetry.

Michele Morin said...

This sounds glorious. We share the same disdain for the sing-songy stuff, and I think it bears the responsibility for turning people off from rhymed poetry. I've never heard of Bob Blaisdell which tells me I need to get up to speed on his work!