A Good Year for Poetry

Anne and I read as much poetry, perhaps more, than we do fiction. Of the poets writing and publishing today, we have many mutual favorites. But there are two poets in particular who, when they release new material, send us rushing to a nearby independent bookstore to grab a first edition. Both of them write in a way that seems sacramental… the sound, the pace, the flavor of the language is as fragile and beautiful as the imagery it inspires in the reader’s mind. Both are intently focused on sacred mystery in the seemingly ordinary. Both take us on profoundly rewarding spiritual journeys.

They are Scott Cairns (Recovered Body, Philokalia) and Jane Hirschfield (The Lives of the Heart, Of Gravity and Angels).

So this week, we’ve been reveling in Hirschfield’s latest volume….

If you like rich, resonant, meditative poetry, you’d be hard pressed to find work by any contemporary poet as satisfying as Hirschfield’s delicate art.

I also highly recommend her book about the art of poetry: Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. You’ll learn as much about living life as you will about reading and writing poetry. In fact, I’ve learned a great deal about the art of film by reading Hirschfield’s perspective on poetry. And that’s why I’ll be referencing her occasionally when I finally get busy and write my book about film…

Oh… and I hear rumors we’ll see a new Scott Cairns book soon. You can get warmed up for the plunge into his next release by reading my interview with him from a few years back.

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  • Chris Burgwald

    While I hope the general populace responds as negatively to the film as the critics have, we all know that that’s not always the case… plenty of “blockbusters” have been panned by the majority of critics, yet manage to make tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Hopefully TDC isn’t one of them… I expect a big opening weekend… it’s next weekend that’ll be the determining factor, IMHO.

  • Matt Page

    The rating seems to have hit 21% now.

    It seems doubtful, but given that no-one I know has seen it yet, there is the possibility that it still could be a good movie. A possibility mind, not a likelihood.


  • trent

    Just a note that Lou’s review has hit RT, bumping the rating up to 8%.

    Oh well, the zero was too good to last…

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Well, I agree with you there. If people are THAT gullible, then they’re not really thinking through their faith very clearly.

    Apparently that’s the case with a lot of people. Which makes me all the more concerned that we do what we can to take this opportunity to educate people properly.

  • Anonymous


    Thanks for your elaborate reply to my question. I can agree with your line of argument. Still, if people base or change their convictions on what they read in a thriller, what does that say about how they practice their fate in the first place?


  • RC

    THat’s crazy!!!

    Ron Howard messed up big time then…

    it’ll be interesting to see what rot.tom. has to say when there’s more than 7.


    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

  • Peter T Chattaway

    No one’s called for the death of Dan Brown.

    Actually, alas, someone has. And he has even offered a $25,000 bounty.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    What’s special about it is this… it has the *appearance* of being factual and researched. In fact, Dan Brown has insisted that the book is “entirely factual” when it comes to his claims about the history of the church.

    Thus, many readers are believing that his facts are right, and that is disturbing their understanding of the truth.

    In fact, even non-Christian historians agree that his work is poorly researched, and based on theories that were rejected and de-bunked long ago.

    Thus, the many readers who have admitted that they believe Dan Brown’s version of history more than the Bible’s are being sorely misled.

    Imagine if someone published a book about Mother Theresa claiming that she was actually a serial killer who went around suffocating children during the night. It wouldn’t matter how many people said, “It’s just fiction!” It would still be an offensive and repulsive defamation of someone who is devoted to doing good.

    Or imagine if some made a movie in which we learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pedophile, and that his “I Have a Dream” speech was stolen from someone else, and that the speech included coded invitations for sexual rendezvous with children. Can you imagine the protests? Wouldn’t you find such a fiction in very poor taste?

    Or, make it personal: Imagine someone published a “fictional” testimony about having sex with your mother, filled with graphic details, on the Internet. Would you just chuckle and say, “Well, it’s fiction”?

    I doubt it.

    Dan Brown has committed a flagrant attack on the church.

    And when you compare the church’s response to The DaVinci Code to the Islamic response to The Satanic Verses… I think you’ll see some stark differences that will put things in perspective. No one’s called for the death of Dan Brown. In fact, many Christians are reading the book and seeing the movie in a (misguided) desire to “engage the dialogue.”

  • Anonymous

    0%! Mmm…I was planning to go see it just for Audrey Tautou…I guess I won’t after all…

    Still what a fuss about a mediocre thriller at best turned into a bad movie…as an atheist I have a hard time to understand why Christians are so offended by this one…really its just one of the many many books and films that tell stupid stories about the origins of Christianity…what is so special about this one besides its popularity?


  • Magnus

    I’, not sure I ever expected to see the headline “A Good Year for Poetry” anywhere these days.
    My old roommate from Montreal was/is quite a good writer and poet. Jeffrey Mackie is his name.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Ken, to answer your question, here, in NO PARTICULAR ORDER, are some of the poets that Anne and I enjoy and learn from:

    1. Scott Cairns
    2. Jane Hirschfield
    3. Pattiann Rogers
    4. Adam Zagajewski
    5. Robert Hass
    6. e. e. cummings
    7. Gerard Manley Hopkins
    8. W.H. Auden
    9. Stanley Kunitz
    10. William Stafford
    11. Zbignew Herbert

    Others that are always a blessing to me, although their work is harder to find…
    My wife Anne. Seriously.
    Marge Manwaring, a local Seattle poet with a sharp wit.
    Carol Kelley, whose work is characterized by grace and a Southern sort of humor.
    Margaret Smith, who has “eyes to see,” and is deeply influenced by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
    And Luci Shaw, who has the warm and expansive heart of a psalmist.

    I’ll add this as a full post, thanks to your prompting.

  • Ken Haynes


    You are always good at doing top 10 list ….would you have a top 10 list of your favorite poets and ..and works …along with a soundbite summary of “why”?

    Appreciate your blog

  • Remy

    Since you’re passing along poetry suggestions, let me encourage you to get Geri Doran’s “Resin”. It’s fantastic.

    Also Mary Karr’s newest “Sinners Welcome” just came out, which I’ve not yet read, but she’s just returned to the church so it bears reading.

  • The Cubicle Reverend

    Her poetry is quite exceptional, I’ve seen her read of several occassions, though I find her discussions on poetry to be a bit full of it.