“We are made for poems,” writes professor, writer, poet, and historian Mark S. Burrows. “As children, we come to them naturally, delighting in how words play on our tongues, whether in nursery rhymes and lullabies or the songs we make up in the delicious hours of daydreaming.”
But something happens, and we think we need to outgrow those rhymes and lullabies and the poetry that made our childhood hearts sing.
The Paraclete Poetry Anthology 2005-2016: New and Selected Poems, edited by Burrows, seeks to restore that loss. It assembles works from the poets published by Paraclete Press over the past decade, and serves as post a signpost of what has been and an indication of what is to come.
The 131 poems from 13 poets are what can be called spiritual poems – poems about faith and its lack, poems about Scripture, poems about faith places, poems about day-to-day life and the meaning of life, poems about the cosmos and our place in it. The range across the spiritual landscape, probing, exploring, defining, wondering, remembering, and understanding.
The poets included in the anthology are Scott Cairns, Phyllis Tickle, Paul Mariani, Anna Kamienska, Father John-Julian, SAID, Bonnie Thurston, Greg Miller, William Woolfitt, Rami Shapiro, Thomas Lynch, Paul Quenon, and Rainer Maria Rilke (editor Burrows has translated poems by SAID and Rilke from the German for publication by Paraclete). The poets represent various faith traditions but there seems a kind of oneness here, as if these different traditions have the same object in view.
Phyllis Tickle (1935-2015) was the founding religion editor at Publishers Weekly, the author of more than 40 books, and for years a member of the Paraclete Press editorial board, where she championed the publishing of poetry. This is one of her poems included in the anthology:
Old Man River by Phyllis Tickle
My father called it
His boyhood’s fiercest teacher.
And child-wise, I knew
He’d once used its even fury
As a mark to sound his own.
My mother turned form us
When he made river talk.
For her, its waters ran
With married tears.
And long before I’d aged enough
To want or rear a man,
She’d willed on me
The anger of her years.
There’s a bridge above it now—
No different from the land—
But it can no more bear my sons
Across his hunger
Then it can lift my breath
Above her fears.
|Mark S. Burrows
Burrows is well-equipped and experienced to serve as the anthology editor. He has translated Prayers of a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke and 99 Psalms by Said. He’s also co-authored several books on Christian faith, theology, and spirituality, including Minding the Spirit: The Study of Christian Spirituality; Faith Can Give Us Wings: The Art of Letting Go; Biblical Hermeneutics in Historical Perspective; and Poetic Revelations: Word Made Flesh Made Word: The Power of the Word III. He is on the faculty at the University of Applied Sciences, Bochum (Germany) and a historian of medieval Christianity. His collection of poetry The Chance of Home is scheduled to be published this year. Burrows is also a senior editor Paraclete Press.
The Paraclete Poetry Anthology is filled with beautiful poetry and, collectively, a sense of the wonder of the world and how we pilgrims of faith navigate through it.
My review of Prayers of a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Mark Burrows) at Tweetspeak Poetry.
My review of 99 Psalms by Said (translated by Mark Burrows) at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Top photograph by Lynn Greyling via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.